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Louis J. Clements 

June, 1991 

Upper Snake River Valley P. 0. Box 2 44 

Historical Society 51 North Center 

208-356-9101 Rexburg, Idaho 83440 

,,._, p^q-r. 


Introduction 1 - 5 

How Is Gold Found? 6 - 18 

Placer Gold 6 - 12 

Black Sand 12 - 13 

Finding The Motherlode 13 - 16 

Detriments To Placer Gold 17 - 18 

Gold Mining In Idaho 19 - 

Northern Idaho 19 - 20 

Salmon River e 20 - 21 

Boise Basin 21 

Owyhee County 22 - 23 

Caribou City 23 

Lost Mines and Buried Treasure 24 - 74 

Kelly's Canyon 24 - 34 

Mud Lake Treasure 34 - 36 

North Fork of the Teton River 37 - 38 

Lone Pine Mine 39 - 41 

Lidy's Hot Springs Buried Gold 41 - 43 

Lava Gold 43 - 47 

Menan Buttes 47 - 49 

Holdup Rock - Beaver Canyon 49 - 50 

Buffalo River 50 - 51 

Buffalo River 1 51 - 55 

Buffalo River II 55 - 59 

Buffalo River III 59 - 64 

Lost Gold Mine - Island Park 64 - 74 

Rumors and Sketchy Stories 75 - 90 

Victor Spanish Coin 75 - 76 

Lost Mine - Shoup 77 

Sunset Lodge Coins 77 - 79 

Camas Creek 79 

Mt. Sawtell Gold 80 - 81 

Leadore , Idaho 81 

West Jefferson Coins 82 

Craters of the Moon National Monument 82 

Snake River - Hibbard 83 

Arco Gold 83 

Sam , Idaho 84 

Uranium - Heise 85 

^T'- >; T'l^' MY 


J* '. -^ . I . 


Rumors and Sketchy Stories Cont. 

Kilgore Gold 86 - 87 

Sentinel Rocks 87 

Snake River - American Falls 88 

Portneuf Canyon Coins 88 

Fort Hall 88 - 90 

Gold Bearing Eastern Idaho Streams (Pictures) 91 - 96 

Teton River 9^ "* ^2 

Falls River ^2 - 93 

Robison Creek ^3 

North Fork Snake River 94 

South Fork Snake River 95 

Falls River 96 

Map - Treasure Sites 97 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 
Brigham Young University-Idaho 


Every spring as the snow begins to melt and the water starts 
to run a spirit of adventure goes throughout the land. Spring is 
the time that stirs the hearts of the amateur prospector. Spring 
means new run off of water that may have stripped new flakes from 
the exposed veins of quartz that contain gold. The snow also 
carries soil from the hillsides into the streams moving gold that 
may have weathered during the winter. This gold is then deposited 
in the collecting spots behind rocks and on sand bars. It happens 
every spring with the promise to prospectors each year of shedding 
the confines of the home (cabin fever) and being able to once again 
get out into nature. 

An excited miner. (Courtesy of Lost Treasure Magazine.) 

iCi' .?:•>: 

Those of us who are into the casual or more serious 
prospecting have noticed over the years that the numbers showing up 
on the streams with gold pans is increasing. It is not getting 
into overwhelming numbers yet but there are more people observed 
each year on the gold producing steams. 

I have dedicated a portion of this book to assist and entice 
some of you into enjoying the outdoors more by becoming an amateur 
prospector. There is great joy to be found in getting out into the 
wilds where you can see nature and also have the 'back of the mind' 
prospect of discovering some gold. 

In my many years as a week-end prospector I have panned most 
of the streams of Eastern Idaho. There is gold in the North Fork 
of the Snake River, the South Fork of the Snake River, the Teton 
River, Bitch (North Fork of the Teton) Creek, Falls River, Camas 
Creek, Warm River, Robison Creek, Buffalo River, Beaver Creek, 
Burns Creek, Birch Creek, and many other smaller streams. I have 
not panned every creek or stream of water in the area but I am 
working on it. 

My experience has not yielded wealth in dollars. My exploring 
nature has been rewarded beyond measure as I have taken the 
opportunity to see what we have in Eastern Idaho. I have found at 
the greatest success as many as five flakes of gold in a single 
pan. Often there is nothing. One flake brings the feeling of 
success. In the background of my mind is the anticipation of 
finding the big deposit that will lead to the mother lode. I can 
see why the prospectors of old were driven to continue their quest 
of wealth. 

My pan accompanies me on picnics, fishing trips, and sight 
seeing. It only takes a moment to investigate a promising sand 
bar, a deposit of sand behind a rock, or a sand deposit above the 
normal water line of a stream. It has proven to be a very 
satisfying addition to my normal outdoor activities in our 
fantastic valley. 

Gold was discovered in Northern Idaho in 18 60 and serious 
mining began in 1861. As miners rushed into the area the claims 
soon had all the land taken. Miners felt that if there was gold in 
Northern Idaho there was probably gold in the surrounding 
mountains. They began to spread out. There was gold found in the 
Boise area and in the Salmon country. From Salmon the prospectors 
spread into Montana and the discoveries at Virginia City, Alder 
Gulch, and Bannock soon were producing large amounts of gold. 

The best way to get the gold out of Montana was to send it 
down the trail/road to the railroad in Utah. Supplies for the 
mining areas had to be freighted out of Utah up the road to 
Montana. This made for a lucrative opportunity for those who 
preferred to obtain their gold through less laborious means than 
panning or working in a mine. The wide Snake River Valley offered 

. ?.-■' 

a means of escape for any would be outlaw who had designs upon a 
gold laden coach. 

The mines in Salmon and in Custer soon found that it was 
easier to send their gold to join the travelers on this north/ south 
road. The increase of commerce on the road only increased the 
number of robberies. Most of the lost treasures of Eastern Idaho 
are tied to the gold traveling from one of these three mining 
areas. There was a lot of gold found and it did no one any good 
until it was deposited in a bank or used to purchase supplies for 
the up grading of the miners life. It had to be shipped out. 

I have been gathering stories for many years regarding the 
lost mines and buried treasures of the area. There are a lot of 
them. I have studied the history of other areas of the West and 
while some of them have more famous stories of lost treasure they 
do not have anywhere near as many. The Snake River Valley of Idaho 
has more lost stories than anywhere I have been able to discover. 
Most of the lost treasures and mines of this area are still lost. 

I have often wondered how I would feel if I lost a treasure or 
the location of a mine. I also have wondered how someone can do 
this. Obviously, on some occasions, the perpetrators of the 
robbery were killed by the posse or died of some other means. But 
several of them came back to the supposed burial spot and could not 
find where it was. On one occasion a mine is lost and the miner 
was only absent for over the winter. 

I feel that if I worked in the vicinity of a mine for a full 
summer that I would be able to find the mine the following spring. 
I especially feel I could not lose it unless there was a natural 
disaster such as an earthquake that might disturb the land 
drastically. My skepticism is tempered by the knowledge that we 
have many modern conveniences today that may assist in the location 
of a hidden treasure or in the burying of one. Buildings, fence 
poles, power poles, distant homes, etc., could all assist today in 
the lining up of landmarks to help in determining where to bury 
something and in finding it the next year. 

For those of you who are interested in beginning prospecting 
I have divided this book into two parts. The first part contains 
some basic instruction regarding the panning of gold and the 
locating of ore bodies. It is basic but the best way to get 
educated is practice, practice, and practice. You can study a lot 
of how to do books for background knowledge but it will not replace 
the school of experience. The other way to gain knowledge is to 
listen to those who know or profess to know about the subject. You 
will always gain in this manner. 

The second part of the book is devoted to the stories of the 
buried treasure that are so abundant within a short drive of 
Rexburg . 


.1^ -v ,*s ; 


One of the by-products of this collection of stories is that 
it may trigger in your memories the knowledge of rumors or factual 
stories that you know of. I would hope that you would write them 
down and send them to the Upper Snake River Valley Historical 
Society, P. O. Box 244, Rexburg, Idaho 83440. If enough of them 
come in we could put out a second volume of stories for those who 
like to look for these treasures. If there are not enough of them 
we would include them in one of the up coming issues of the Snak^ 
River Echoes , the magazine of historical stories of Eastern Idaho. 

I have often been asked where I found the information that is 
found in these gold stories. Over the years I have gathered the 
stories from newspapers, folk tales handed down, listening to 
others, journals, diaries, and some books. I had copies of 
newspaper accounts of many of the early robberies in my files for 
years. I obtained many of them from the newspapers of Virginia 
City and other cities of the gold fields of Montana. Some of these 
came from the library of the Montana Historical Society. They were 
in my den when my home was hit by the Teton Flood. I lost all of 
this material as my den was totally trashed. One of the most 
unpleasant memories of the flood is walking in my den and seeing 
the vision of all my records and research strewn about and mixed 
with the mud and water. All I could do was shovel it into a wheel 
barrow and dump it. At the time it almost ended my interest in 
history and writing. It is hard to give up, though, when the 
subject is Eastern Idaho and there is so much history to find and 
write about. 

There is always some wondering if the information about a 
treasure is accurate or not. By the time it has been passed from 
person to person it can take on a story of its own which may or may 
not have any truth left in it. 

Also stories told about an area by someone who is not familiar 
with that country can create discrepancies in the tale. 
For example take the following quote from the July, 1990 issue of 
Lost Treasure regarding a treasure lost in Eastern Idaho. Pay 
particular attention to the two descriptions of where the gold is 

"The following treasure tale concerns a little known bandit 
named James Lockett, who was a minor outlaw. The story goes that 
each time he committed a robbery he made sure part of it was 
buried. Over a period of several years Lockett is supposed to have 
cached close to $100,000 north of Pond's Resort near Maryville in 
Fremont County ..." 

Consider that the treasure is supposed to be north of Pond's 
Resort near Marysville. Marysville is twenty miles south of Pond's 
Lodge. I point this out to show that it is possible to make a 
small error that can change the whole complexion of the tale. The 
author of the story can not be very accurate about the geography of 
the valley nor can the editors of the magazine. This is not to be 
expected of a national magazine or an author who is writing from 
sources of the story. 

It does point out why there are many different stories about 
the same treasure and why they sometimes are quite different. I 
should suggest that someone reading the stories I^^^X^.l^^^^^^.^^ 
compiled here without reading the qualifiers regarding the stories 
would go away with a lot more knowledge than ever existed about the 
original tales. 

I would like to thank the Upper Snake River Valley Historical 
Society for the information yielded by their excellent library. I 
would also like to thank Shurron Genta for her help m the proof 
reading of this manuscript. 

I hope that you will have as much fun as I have over the years 
looking for buried treasure and panning for gold. It is enDoyable 
and might prove to be quite rewarding. 

Good Luck, 

Louis J. Clements 

rr-^Z'.'r'y.'^ j f-, 


Most gold is found away from the primary source of the ore. 
The vein of gold is worked at by rain, snow, and wind with flakes 
being weathered away. The flakes or dust follow the natural 
erosion patterns down from the source. The beginning prospector 
can follow some simple rules to find out first of all if gold does 
exist and then how to trace it to its vein. 

Placer Gold 

A great many of the streams in the West and especially in 
Idaho contain traces of gold. As the gold chips off the primary 
source the wind and rain usually get it eventually to a stream. 
Since gold is heavier than the surrounding soils of most streams it 
sinks to the bottom. Gold is found behind rocks in the stream 

Conant Creek is typical of Eastern Idaho Streams that 
course through known gold bearing soil. 

that cause a natural lessening of the force of the water. Sand 
bars collect the gold that has come down the stream over the years. 
The continual motion of the water tends to shift the rocks of the 
stream ever so minutely and the gold sinks further into the loose 
rock. A successful prospector will continue his search through 
sand until he has checked it out down to the bedrock. 

This sandbar on the North Fork of the Snake River has 
yeilded color on several occasions to the beginning 
prospector. It is just north of the Hwy 3 3 bridge. 

When I approach a new spot in a stream to see if it has any 
promise, I look first to see if there are any sand bars present. 
The next thing I look for are rocks in the stream that have the 

water swirling around them. The third thing 
presence of black sand in the above places, 
indicator of the possible presence of gold, 
indicator of a problem as it is heavy and makes 
the gold flakes from the heavy sand. 

I look for IS the 

Black sand is an 

It is also the 

it hard to separate 

Check which rocks you discard to make sure they are not 

A shovel is a very useful tool in prospecting. It will 
help you get to the bottom of a sand bar much easier. 

The downstream end of a sand bar is where I begin panning. I 
take a sample from the bar and place it in my pan. I usually start 
with about a half shovel full of sand, mud, or a mixture of both. 
A gentle circular motion of the pan of water and sand gets the 
deposit in motion. The direction of the motion is not essential as 
long as it is constant. At short intervals of time I dip the pan 
into the stream to get rid of the muddy water. After a short time 
I pause to remove the larger rocks from the solution. Be careful 
to look at the larger rocks. Make sure they are not nuggets. 

Typical pan of gravel 


I was panning on Burns Creek above Heise Hot Springs on a 
spring day following the above procedures. I took out a rock about 
the size of a fifty cent piece, looked at it, and then threw it 
back into the stream. As I continued panning I kept thinking of 
the discarded rock and the strange formation it contained. I 
decided to find it again. It took a half hour of intensive search 
before I found it. It turned out to be a fossilized part of a 
horses jaw. Geologists have suggested that it is from one to fifty 
million years old. 

As you continue the motion of the pan and the replacing of the 
water the sand in your pan will reduce. Then you need to look 
carefully at the remaining sand as you keep the water in motion. 
Gold flakes will form at the bottom of the residue in your pan. 

A rich deposit would find you with many grains or flakes of 
gold in a pan. I have always felt excited if as many as three or 
four flakes showed up in a pan. Before you get too excited about 
what you have in your pan be sure to look at it again in the shadow 
of your body. Sometimes in sunlight flakes of something else can 
look like gold. 


Panning for Gold on McCoy Creek near Caribou City 

I was panning a stream near Caribou City east of Idaho Falls 
on one occasion. In the middle of the stream I found a sand bar 
that looked very promising to me. Adding to the excitement of the 
prospecting was the knowledge that this stream came right out of 
the gold producing area of Caribou City that was a gold town of the 
late 1800's. As I panned I saw many flakes of gold flying past in 
the pan. The problem was that it was nearing the end of the time 
that I had that day for exploring. My second pan yielded the same 

demonstration of great wealth in gold. I decided to shovel the 
whole sand bar into a couple of buckets I had with me to take home 
and pan at my leisure. When I got back to the sand a couple of 
days later the flakes did not look quite the same. I was panning 
in my back yard with a hose and on a cloudy day. The flakes looked 
silvery. It turned out to be muscovite rather than gold. The 
sunlight and my desire to find a large deposit had given it a 
different glow in the stream. 

These gold dredges did great damage to the streams 

as they stripped the soil and gravel down to the 

bedrock and left only piles of rocks. 

I have found color in streams all over Eastern Idaho. I have 
never found it in great enough amounts to make any money from it 
but whenever I am out in the forest I have my pan with me. All the 
equipment you need to pan for gold is a pan. A shovel can be 
useful if you plan to get into the bottom of a sand bar. Boots can 
be handy if you plan to get out into a stream. 

Some, who really get into the week-end or casual prospecting, 
build themselves mini sluice ooxes or rockers. The sluice box of 
old was built so that sand and gravel could be shoveled into the 
stream flowing through the box. Small boards in the bottom of the 
box caused the gold to be deposited behind them. The prospector 
then shut the stream off and collected the gold. For this method 
to work it is best to be located in a stream that has been 
producing gold in some substance by panning. There is too much 
money that can be invested in a project if there is some question 
as to whether or not money is to be made. 

My friends and I built an eight foot sluice box that could be 
separated into two parts and reassembled at our chosen stream. 


This was when I was in high school. We placed it on various 
streams throughout Eastern Idaho during the years. It was not long 
enough to produce anything though the natural flow of water. We 
never got to the manual labor of throwing dirt or gravel into the 
box. We also never found any gold. We left the box in a stream 
over the winter and the spring run-off destroyed it. 

Sluice box at Gilmore, Idaho. 

Another method of expanding the gold dust recovery process is 
using the rocker. Many of these models can fit nicely into the 
trunk of a car. A rocker or cradle uses the idea of a rocking 
motion to get the gold to settle in the riffles so that it can be 
recovered. It is considered to be one of the most efficient 
methods ever developed for separating gold and black sand. Rockers 
can go through much more sand and gravel than panning with much 
less effort. 





Black Sand 

One of the biggest problems in Eastern Idaho and a few other 
parts of the West is the presence of black sand in the streams that 
also have gold. The black sand is heavy, sometimes being at least 
twice as heavy as the surrounding sand and gravel, and separating 
the sand and the gold is sometimes impossible with only a pan. In 
the past the black sand was considered quite a bother and it was 
discarded without any consideration that it might be valuable. 
Today it is considered to be of major value as much gold has been 
found in the concentrations of the black soil and it can be 

The black sand for the most part is not as heavy as the gold. 
A method used by many of today's prospectors is to let the sand dry 
on a piece of cardboard, a pan, or something flat. As soon as it 
is thoroughly dry gently blow across it. A lot of the lighter 
black sand will fly away. Tapping the board lightly and blowing 
again will remove more of it. 

Gravel bar 

- North Fork of Snake River 

Another method is using a magnet. Most black sand is magnetic 
as it is from an iron compound. Drawing a magnet through the sand 
will pick up the black sand and leave the gold. This depends a lot 
on the consistency of the gold and what kind it is. Some of it, 
like flour gold, is pretty light and the above methods may lose it. 

The most tried and true method of separating the gold from 
black sand is to use mercury. Mercury will absorb gold from its 
surroundings. Then the mercury can be boiled and all that will be 
left when it boils away will be the gold. There are always 
drawbacks. In this case there are two. Mercury is expensive so 
you will need to have a system of trapping the vapors of the boiled 


mercury so that it can be condensed back into mercury. This would 
also be wise in the second drawback. Mercury fumes are deadly and 
cannot be breathed without extensive damage to your system. The 
trapping program must be foolproof to ensure your continued good 

Mercury was so popular in the olden days that there is money 
to be made in recovering deposits of it that were left in the 
waters of the West. Mercury is very heavy. It is not unknown for 
a modern prospector to find mercury in the very places he is 
looking for gold. This would have to be in an area where mining 
was taking place. There is one story of a deposit of estimated 
tons of mercury to be found near an old mine in the Salmon, Idaho, 
country. It was cheap in the old mining days and was just dumped 
into the streams. 

Finding the Motherlode 

The old prospectors found their first trace of gold in the 
streams. They then went up the stream for a distance and panned 
again. If they found gold again they moved further up the stream. 
In this manner they were trying to find out where the gold was 
coming from. Many of the rich mines of California, Nevada, 
Colorado, and Idaho were found in this manner. Since the source of 
the gold has to be from an exposed rock containing it this method 
has proved quite successful. 


A shaft cut into the mountain to find the main vein 
of gold. If it went far enough, rails were needed 
to carry the ore out. 

There has to be exceptions to success and this story 
illustrates one of them. In some deposits there appears to be many 
small exposures of gold contributing to the collecting of gold dust 
downstream from them. At Kilgore, Idaho, there is a collection of 


mines that have been dug into the mountainside. I have panned the 
stream beiow the mines and found a lot of color. I tried the above 
method to trace the gold to its source. I followed a small stream 
right up the mountainside almost to its source. I found gold all 
along the way. I then went to the sides of the stream and found 
gold all along the slope of the mountain. It seemed that there 
were at least three flakes of gold in every pan wherever T panned. 
The whole hillside contained geld. This would suggest to me that 
there were many sources of gold wearing away. 

Spotting a quartz ledge in a canyon like this would 
require the use of binoculars. Trying to climb on 
the sides of this canyon would be impossible. 

I heard a new idea a few years ago that seemed to make sense. 
The prospector was suggesting that if you were in an area that was 
known to produce gold you should climb to the highest point around 
and then study the surrounding area. You would be looking for 
exposed rock that contained veins of quartz. If you used 
binoculars from the high spot you could see for some distance. 
Gold occurs in quartz veins and especially in broken areas of 
quartz. Identifying these areas could shorten the effort of 
walking all across the country. 

Another new innovation in gold panning and prospecting is the 
use of a metal detector in your search. If you use a plastic, 
rubber, or non-metallic pan you can make sure that you do not throw 
away a nugget. You work your pan of sand or gravel to the point 
you are ready to remove the rocks by hand. Before throwing these 
rocks away you could pass a metal detector over the pan. It would 
tell you if there was any gold in any of the rocks that 
contemplating disposing of. I would hate to think that I 
discarded a gold nugget in the past. I will have a metal 
in a short time to augment my search and recreation. 

you were 
may have 


Here are only a few of the dozens of metal detector 
that are available on the market today. You need to 
be quite specific as to what you are searching for 
and where to know which will best fit your needs. 

A second use for the metal detector is the search for coins 
and artifacts of a metallic base. There are many association and 
clubs that have been organized for amatuer and professional users 
of metal detectors. There are also contests in different areas of 
the country where those of the prospecting persuasion gather to see 
who can use a detector to the best skill to uncover a buried 

There are a lot of magazines, books, video tapes, cassette 
tapes, and other sources for information regarding the use of and 
the purchase of metal detectors. It is such a field now that there 
are dozens of different detectors and it would be wise to have 
someone help you in the purchase of the one that will best suit the 
purpose you want it for. 

The following list of books are available in the library of 
the Upper Snake River Valley Historical Society, 51 N. Center, 
Rexburg, Idaho, to assist someone in their efforts to get into the 
treasure hunting field. 

Treasure Hunting Pays Off 

How And Where To Prospect For Gold 

Treasure punter's Manual * 7 and 8 

Successful Coin Hunting 

The Travels Of Hardrock Hendricks 


. *-- -^ -- 

r> .C-. ..-■ .- 

The material in their, can be quite useful in getting you started and 
helping you to avoid some of the pitfalls of those trying to get 
their treasure iror: sc?.}:ina a potential treasure hunting customer. 

The two TTiain areas of gold mining in Eastern Idaho are at 
Caribou City on Caribou Mountain southeast of Palisades Lake and at 
Kilgore, Idaho. These are two extremes in success. Caribou City 
was a modern gold rush town during its heyday. Thousands of people 
flocked to the area to take part in the possible riches. Kilgore 
never developed :nto gold rush. There were many mines dug into the 
mountain and som.e gold was found. The mam vein of the Kilgore 
gold was never discovered and so the mines became to expensive to 

There were a few other spots of reported gold discoveries in 
Eastern Idaho but none of them were developed into producing mines. 
One of the biggest producing areas of gold in the state of Idaho 
was in the Salmon country. It is only a few hours drive from 

The closest of these mines is in the Gilmore, Idaho, area. 
Gilmore is a ghost town now as the mines played out in the 
Depression years. It is only a two hour drive from Rexburg to this 
town and the mines located nearby. Caution has to be used in 
exploring the mines as some of them are being actively worked for 
their silver and most of the area around the workings has also been 
already claimed. These mines produced silver, lead, nickel, and 
gold. It is a popular historic site because it is only a mile or 
so off the main highway and the road into the area is kept up well 
because it leads to a popular camping spot in the mountains behind 
the town. 

Ashton Dam placed across the Snake River 


Detriments to Placer Gold 

The biggest detriment to placer gold finding its way down the 
rivers now are the dams and chGd.s t'.<.t have been placed across the 
rivers in an attempt to make more water available for irrigation. 
This stops the free flow of '->^^ ^-••, . ^>^ • — vides a place for the 
gold dust or sand to stop. ... . that any new gold has 
found Its way down the river thd'c nave such checks in place. 
However, since the gold has taken years and years to find its way 
down the river the years cf irrigation would not make much 
difference in the gold to be found downstream. New gold would 
collect in the upper confluence of the reservoir formed by the dam. 

i^^.--.--^- -.' Jk- .■i.ji una ,*>"Li.r 

Failed Teton Dam 

The Teton Dam failure provided a special circumstance to ruin 
the rest of the canyon for any gold opportunities. There has 
always been gold in this canyon. It has come from the mountains to 
the east. 

When the dam failed and the water rushed out of the reservoir 
it caused tremendous damage to the canyon upstream as well as 
downstream. Water had seeped into the canyon walls upstream. As 
the water left the reservoir quickly the water in the crevices, 
cracks, and caves could not drain as quickly. The weight of the 
water caused the canyon walls to burst to the canyon floor. This 
changed the free flowing stream to a series of ponds with a cascade 
of water joining them. It would be hard to imagine any gold grains 
or dust making their way past these ponds. Even in periods of high 
water run off in the spring would any gold be able to make its way 
past the rock checks that now proliferate the canyon. 




Downstream view from the Teton Dam 

The debris of the dam itself is distributed all over the 
canyon from the dam dcvmstream through the valley. It will take 
many more years before the river cuts through all of the rocks and 
soil to find the original gold bearing sand bars. Sate of this 
"dam" soil found its way clear tc the American Falls reservoir. 



The gold mining era in Idaho began in 1860 in Northern Idaho. 
The gold rush to California and the silver discoveries in Nevada 
had brought many men to the West. As the land for claims was taken 
up, many looked to other areas for the promise of quick riches. 
Whenever there was a new discovery there were plenty of unemployed 
men already out here to make up a rush. Each gold rush also 
brought new men and women from the East. California went from a 
few thousands to numbering in the tens of thousands in one year. 
Most of the other rushes in the West were not so dramatic but they 
did alter the local populations quite a bit. 

Idaho's history prior to the 1860 's was characterized by fur 
traders, trappers, Indians, explorers, travelers along the Oregon 
Trail, and the incidents connected to their activities. It was an 
area to exploit and leave, an area to get through quickly on the 
way to a more desirous location. The Indian menace was enough to 
discourage ranchers or settlers from moving into the territory. 
The following areas of gold discovery in Idaho are described here 
to give you a general knowledge of where the gold discoveries were 
in the state. Since most of this gold is of a placer type it also 
suggests that some investigation might lead one to surmise where 
the gold came from. 

Northern Idaho 

It would take a story promising immense wealth to convince 
anyone to venture into northern Idaho in the 1860 's. Such a story 
came froth in 1859. Indians told of seeing the "Eye of Manitou" 
while camping in the mountains of Idaho on one of their hunting 
forays. Their fires that night had cast a light upon a cliff to 
reveal a bright reflection from the rock. The Indians thought it 
was an eye gazing upon them. They went up the next morning to the 
source of the light and found a solid rock that resembled glass. 
White men hearing the story interpreted it to suggest that the 
glass rock was actually a huge diamond embedded in the rock wall 
overhanging the Indian camp. 

A group decided to investigate. They were at Fort Walla Walla 
in Washington when they heard the story. They were disenchanted 
miners from the mines further south and had some time on their 
hands. Outfitting themselves for a thorough investigation they 
left for Idaho. 

They were almost a hundred miles from the present Washington 
border well into Idaho when one of the men discovered color in a 


stream bed. Immediately they set up a camp and began to vigorously 
test the stream for more gold. The results were very encouraging 
as gold was found in almost every pan. 

The group spent the entire summer working the sand bars and 
gravel beds, building up a sizable poke. As winter approached 
plans were made to send some men back to get supplies while the 
rest remained to work through the season. 

Heavy storms kept the supply group in Walla Walla all winter. 
The only amusement there was drinking. They were supposed to keep 
the source of their income a secret. Several evenings of merriment 
soon had the secret of the gold discovery quite public. In the 
spring as the supply group returned to their diggings they were 
accompanied by several hundred enthusiastic followers. 

The general area of this gold discovery was named "Oro Fino" 
meaning fine gold in Spanish. 


' (First Gold DlBcoveiy 
)\ In liti\o - I860) 

, EUt City ^^' 

, virgljil* City, 

f L*esburg 

' A*o 

— ' /CreaJt 

, Sa^ol 


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' City ^ 



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^ Caribou 
f • City 



Major Idaho Gold Discoveries 1860-1880 

Salmon River 

A lack of unclaimed land in the northern Idaho placer 
operations forced a group of twenty-three men to move south and 
eastward looking for gold. They soon found themselves in the 
mountainous Salmon country. A small discovery of gold there 
precipitated a minor rush. With more men looking for the best 
discovery there were soon some rich finds. Several mines were 
developed and men were employed. This brought many others into the 
country to spread out on the rest of the mountain slopes. 


- ■ /-v; 

Perhaps the most interesting part of this mining area was the 
establishment of Leesburg in western Lemhi County. It was named by 
men who wanted to honor the South 's famous General Lee of the Civil 
War. Only a mile away were men who were sympathetic to the north. 
They built their own town and called it Grantsville after the 
North's most famous general. In Idaho the South prevailed with 
Leesburg absorbing Grantsville although they both lost out in the 
end. There are only a few cabins and other remnants of the two 
towns still standing. There was a lot of gold taken out of this 
area and a persistent prospector today can find sign of gold in the 
streams with his trusty pan. 

The other major gold discovery in the Salmon River country was 
on Loon Creek on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. There over a half 
a million dollars in placer gold was taken out. There is 
considerable interest still being shown in this area today. The 
latest discovery I heard of was the deposits of mercury found in 
the stream. Mercury was used abundantly to separate the gold from 
any other sand and soil in this stream. 

Boise Basin 

Curiosity killed the cat but sometimes it brings rewards. For 
several days an Indian was observed watching the miners of northern 
Idaho working the streams and slopes. At the end of a hard day's 
work of digging in the rock and gravel the prospectors were 
exhausted. The Indian watching them appeared to be amused. When 
he was approached to see why he watched and asked what was amusing. 
He told his questioners that where he came from there was yellow 
rock lying all over the ground. His questioners then casually 
inquired as to where the Indian had come from. He revealed that he 
came from southern Idaho just north of the Snake River near present 
day Boise. 

In 1862 Moses Splawn, George Grimes, and a few others set out 
to explore and prospect. Splawn had been one of the questioners of 
the above Indian. At one of there camps in southern Idaho they 
found that a pan of dirt would yield fifteen cents in gold. That 
would be over a dollar in today's (1991) prices. This was the 
first gold discovery in what came to be called the Boise Basin 
diggings. From their camp on Grimes Creek the group spread out and 
found several rich lodes. 

The inevitable rush occurred with thousands of people showing 
up. Boise City became established as a supplying center. Within 
two years there were over fifteen thousand people in Boise and it 
grew to become the capital. 

Eventually several hundred million dollars of gold were taken 
out of the Basin. It has been suggested that more placer gold came 
out of the Boise Basin area than all of Alaska. 


1 >• 




Owyhee County 

The background for the rush to Owyhee County started with 
travelers on the Oregon Trail with a lost treasure. Each of the 
wagons traveling on the trail was equipped with some blue buckets. 
They seemed to be part of the standard equipment for traveling 
across the country. At some spot along the trail in the 
southwestern part of Idaho their stock began to be very frisky. 
Fearful of overturning a wagon or having a team run away with one, 
they filled their buckets with rocks they found near the trail. 
This was to cause extra weight for the teams to pull to keep them 
tired and not so frisky. When they got to Oregon they dumped the 
rocks . 

Someone later noticed that the rocks looked different and 
examined them. The rocks contained gold. It could be explained 
that new people to the West who had just come from the East would 
not be expected to recognize gold bearing rock. With so many 
prospectors scattered across the West it was only a matter of time 
until someone examined the pile and found what they contained. 

The lost gold was called the Blue Bucket Mine. The rumor 
began immediately that there was a potential gold mining area in 
southern Idaho. With so much gold being found around the whole 
country it was easy to believe. Many made their plans to check out 
this discovery as all gold rumors were checked out. Getting into 
this part of Idaho was not easy. Having the knowledge that the 
discovery was made on the Oregon Trail did help in pinning down the 

The first prospector to lead a group was named Turner. He led 
his group from the Boise Basin, where they had unsuccessfully been 
prospecting, across the Snake River to explore the Owyhee 
Mountains. They did find a little gold but that small amount did 
not create interest in any others trying their luck. It seems that 
unless there is a major gold discovery the main body of prospectors 
that were hanging around were not interested in moving. 

The next year twenty-nine men, under the leadership of Michael 
Jordan, found gold and started a placer operation. They claimed 
all of the potential gold land and then they went back for supplies 
to keep them operating for several months. The story got out while 
they were obtaining their supplies. Perhaps this is because they 
paid for their supplies in gold, a sure sign that they were 
experiencing success. 

The usual rush followed. Two thousand men quickly went from 
the Boise area south. They found all of the obvious land claimed 
and decided to return to their former claims. This gold rush 
became known in Idaho history as the forty-eight hour rush. Most 
gold rushes lasted much longer as prospectors were known to look 
around more. Perhaps the environment and weather conditions of 
southwestern Idaho did not lend itself to encouragement of a 
prolonged stay. 



They should not have left so soon. Rich silver ores were 
discovered in the same vicinity. Silver City came into being and 
millions of dollars were invested in mining equipment and supplies. 
Soon the mines were producing high amounts of silver. This silver 
boom continued until the silver crash of the 70 's. This area never 
rivaled the silver mines of Comstock Lode of Nevada but it was 
impressive for Idaho standards. 

Caribou City 

Several million dollars worth of gold was taken out of eastern 
Idaho in the 1870 's. "Caribou" Jack Fairchild and his partners 
discovered placer gold on the mountain which bears his name today. 
This discovery helps my theory on gold in Idaho. This area is 
between the gold producing areas of central Idaho and the Wyoming 
mining. Perhaps that is why Fairchild and his group were 
prospecting the country. It is quite a way from the established 
areas of normal gold production. 

Two towns grew out of the discovery: Caribou City and Keenan 
City. The claims played out and the towns died leaving only an 
occasional prospector looking for the main vein. It has not been 
found yet. There is a lot of color in the streams coming off 
Caribou Mountain and the original miners never felt that the main 
vein of gold which supplied the placer operations on its slopes was 
found. This is one of the prime sources of amateur panning in 
Eastern Idaho. There is gold in most of the streams around this 
mountain just south of the east end of Palisades Lake. 


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Kelly's Canyon 

Probably the most popular lost treasure in the whole of 
Eastern Idaho at least in terms of numbers of people who know of it 
and have tried to find it is the Kelly's Canyon gold. It is just 
off an oiled road leading to a popular ski lodge and is very easy 
to get to. I have sent groups of students each year to the canyon 
to try their luck at finding this buried treasure. 

The gold lost in Kelly's Canyon originated in Virginia City, 
Montana. When gold was discovered in the Alder Gulch in 1861, the 
nearest railroad for transporting the gold to banks and supplies 
back for the mines was in Utah. A well traveled road developed 
between Utah and Montana through Idaho. Interstate 15 follows this 
early road fairly close today. Stagecoaches, freight wagons, and 
mule trains made their way northward loaded with supplies and 
people and returned southward with gold and people. The southward 
journey was frequently interrupted by outlaws in their attempts to 
by-pass hard work in obtaining their gold. 

One of the more popular areas for the robberies was in the 
Portneuf Canyon south of Pocatello. Here, near McCammon, occurred 
one of the more unique robbery episodes which resulted in this, the 
most noted of the lost treasure stories in Eastern Idaho. 

Bill James and his partner, Jim Hall, were hidden behind a 
large boulder in the Portneuf Canyon. Several times they had heard 
the wheels and plodding horses of a freighter coming down the road 
but they were waiting for the more measured trotting of the 
stagecoach horses. They knew that the stages often carried gold as 
well as wealthy mine owners and they had determined to relieve the 
passengers and the stage of any gold or currency. 

They had picked their site because it was at the top of a 
small rise. Soon the stagecoach appeared coming over the hill with 
its horses laboring. The stage stopped to allow the horses a 
breather. At this point James stepped into the road and Hall let 
himself be seen behind the boulder with his rifle pointed at the 
stage. Both of the men wore masks. 


They demanded the strongbox to be thrown down. They also made 
the passengers leave the stage so they could be searched for 
personal iteir^s of value. The horses were cut from the stage and 
hazeo - ^ •^cad to prevent a quid: reporting of the robbery. 
The tw . .^.^^1^^ "^hen loaded the gola onto two mules and went north 

up t^^" ~ -• -- • -^*-,^,^-.-^ ^_ ^-rr: -^v-.-ir leisure way northward 

an:; . ver into Wyoming. 

This is the view just past Kelley's Canyon looking 
toward the east. Just past the farm house in the 
distance the river and the road turn to the north. 

Shortly after the two outlaws disappeared a freighter showed 
up from the south. The stage drive persuaded the freighter to cut 
out one of his horses so that he could go back to Blackfoot to 
report the robbery and to obtain new horses for the stage. By the 
time the stage driver got to Blackfoot it was getting dark and so 
a posse was organized to leave at first light. The two outlaws had 
been observed crossing the Snake River to the north of town and it 
was felt that they would not get to far during the night. 

Early the next morning the posse set out for Eagle Rock (Idaho 
Falls) to see if their quarry had been seen there. Their inquiries 
found that two men with mules fitting the outlaws description were 
about two hours ahead of them and headed in an easterly direction 
towards where the South Fork of the Snake River enters the plain. 

James and Hall were soon spotted as the posse had nothing to 
slow them down. They were on the north side of the Snake River 
near the present Heise bridge. The outlaws saw the posse at the 
same time and whipped the mules to their top speed. The mules were 
to be the undoing of this pair. They could not out distance the 
horses even if they were not loaded with gold. 


The trail and the road on the north side of the Snake 
River end as the river runs against the steep side 
of the mountains just beyond the hill in the middle 
of the picture. 

James had the line that was leading the mules and Hall decided 
to make it every man for himself. He left James on the flat just 
east of Heise and struck out on his own. Near the mouth of Kelly's 
Canyon the two disappeared from their pursuers as a heavy 
(cloudburst) rain shower obscured them from view. The posse rode 
through the shower and spotted a rider disappearing around the bend 
of the river. They gave hot pursuit. 

The Snake River Canyon past this bend begins to narrow and 
eventually the north side ends in a solid rock wall. At this point 
Hall decided to take a stand. It was an unwise decision and in the 
ensuing shootout, Hall was killed. 

The posse was puzzled for a time as they knew there were two 
outlaws and some mules involved. They retraced their steps looking 
for a hiding place that James might have turned into. They decided 
they would have noticed anyone turning into any opening past the 
turn of the river. They moved quickly back to the flat east of 
Heise and discovered Kelly's Canyon branching to the north. 

They moved cautiously up the canyon for a few miles where they 
discovered the two mules and a saddle horse feeding quietly. Since 
it had just rained they felt they would be able to find the outlaws 
tracks easily. They studied the ground and could find no sign. 
They then decided that the rain had obliterated any tracks. They 
searched the rest of the day and then made camp for the night. 
They resumed their search the next day and then decided that he had 


escaped. There just was no trace found of James or the gold. The 
posse returned to Blackfoot with only the horse and the mules to 
show for their efforts. 

This is the mouth of Little Kelley's Canyon. The shot 
was taken from the road going up Kelley's. The gold 
is most likely within the view of this picture. 

James had turned into the canyon in the middle of the storm. 
He had not gone far before he decided to try to hide the loot. He 
knew the posse might be delayed for a short time by the rain but he 
also knew that with the amount of gold involved they would shortly 
be with him. 

At the mouth of a small canyon that branched onto Kelly's 
Canyon from the left, he stopped his horse and the two mules. He 
did not know how much time he had before the posse would arrive so 

he did most of the hiding of the gold 
the packs to a nearby pile of rocks 
chased the mules and the horse up the 
at a steady pace before he decided to 
himself . 

in great haste. He dragged 
and covered them. He then 
canyon. He got them moving 
try to find a place to hide 

He was feeling quite proud of himself as the gold was hidden 
and the transport was far away from him. All he had to do now was 
to find a place to get out of the rain and wait. A little way up 
the canyon (Little Kelly's) he spied a cave through the trees. He 
had to climb up a rock slope and then lift himself up to the 
opening which came to his waist. Once inside the cave he felt 
secure. He could see through the trees where the gold was hidden 
but it would only be by chance that anyone saw this cave. He 
settled down to wait, shivering in the cold, soaked to the skin, 
but feeling satisfied. 


This is the cave as seen through the trees. There is 
a path leading to the cave. 

The click of a shoe against stone brought him to his feet to 
peer out of the cave. It was a few minutes before the posse came 
into view and then it was through the leaves. The outlaw had a 
momentary panic as he wondered if he had left any sign on the trail 
that would suggest that he had stopped. The posse did not slow 
down and it was evident from their conversation that they were 
tired of the pursuit and wanted to get back to Blackfoot. He 
watched them slowly move up the canyon and disappear from view. 
One of them glanced his way and he shrank back from the cave 
opening. He was not seen and the posse made its meticulous way 
searching for signs. 

James huddled throughout the 
discovery. He did not dare leave, 
canyon and then decided that he was 

cave and made his way down to where the gold was buried, 
that without horses or mules he was not going to be able 
it. He looked around for a better burial spot as he had 
the gold in haste the day before. It took about an hour to uncover 
the gold, move it to a more secure place, bury it again, and then 
take note of the landmarks to ensure that he would then be able to 
find it in a year or so. 

night in the cave fearing 

The next day he studied the 

alone. He climbed out of the 

He knew 
to move 

Now it was time to leave. He was not to sure of the country 
around him but to his knowledge the only town anywhere nearby was 
Blackfoot. He definitely was not going back there. He looked up 
Kelly's Canyon. It rose dramatically and it was obvious that going 


This is the view of Kelley's Canyon from the bottom 
of the path leading to the cave. This is where the 
outlaw said he could see where he buried the gold. 

that way would take him into the higher mountains. He looked down 
the canyon and wondered if the posse had left a couple of men 
around a corner to see if he would emerge. He looked up Little 
Kelly's and knew that it went towards the west tapering to the 

We do not know which way he went out of Little Kelly's but we 
do know that his goal was to get to civilization and to lay low for 

a period of time. I like to think that 
crossed the Rexburg Bench to the west, 
south road in the middle of the desert, 
he could have found several freighters 
(Roberts.) There he could have paid a 

he went up Little Kelly's, 
and then joined the north- 
It is quite possible that 
in the town of Market Lake 
freighter to take him to 

Virginia City. He 
stage passengers. 

still had some cash that he had taken from the 

From Virginia City we know that he made his way to the state 
of Washington. He wanted to place as much distance between himself 
and his pursuers as possible and yet still be not too far from his 

In Washington he finally began to relax and quit looking over 
his shoulder. He arranged for room and board and began to 
contemplate his future. He also needed time to rest from his 


nervous exhaustion and to recuperate from the steadily worsening 
cold he was developing. 

His cold progressed over the days into severe lung problems. 
His landlady fussed over him constantly and finally called a 
doctor. The doctor could not arrest the illness and felt that 
James was steadily deteriorating. The landlady spent several hours 
a day taking care of him and tried to supply for his every need. 
It is felt that the rain and exposure in Kelly's Canyon and the 
subsequent escape had done him in. 

Finally James called her in and told her that he felt sure 
that he was going to die. She had taken such good care of him that 
he wanted to share his wealth with her. She sent for the doctor 
and then sat by his bed to listen in fascination as he related his 
story in a sort of death-bed confession. He told her of several 
landmarks that would pinpoint the location of the treasure. As he 
was about to tell here how to line up the landmarks to lead right 
to the treasure, the doctor arrived. 

He took one look at the ailing outlaw and asked the landlady 
to depart. Shortly afterward the doctor came out and announced 
that James had passed away. 

James' landlady was not sure whether to believe the story or 
not. It was now several months since the robbery had taken place. 
She inquired of the local press and discovered that a robbery had 
taken place in Idaho in the vicinity described by James. She also 
noted that the loot from the robbery had not been found. Travel 
from Washington to Eastern Idaho was not a small chore in the 
1860 's and 1870 's. She promptly put the story out of her mind to 
attend to more serious matters. 

Several years later her fortunes took a turn for the worse. 
She needed some cash to make repairs on her boarding home and for 
other purposes. The story of the lost treasure kept coming back 
into her mind. Finally she made the decision to investigate. She 
put together a small stake and accompanied by a few friends, set 
out for Idaho. 

The Idaho she came to now had several settlements. There was 
a small resort as the site of the hot springs being operated by 
Richard Heise, who had homesteaded the area in 1894. This resort 
made a great cover for the treasure hunt. They could appear to be 
riding or hiking from the resort while they hunted for the gold. 
Since there were occasional people around they had to be quite 
cautious in what they said and did. Several thought the daily 
trips into the canyons around Heise by the group from Washington 
suggested they were on a big game hunt. 

The area described by James as the burial place for the gold 
was easily identifiable. His former landlady went right to Kelly's 
Canyon. She led the group up the canyon and turned into Little 
Kelly's Canyon, They spread out and quickly found the landmarks 
that told them they were in the right spot. She went to the left 



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S n^^^:t:^ir?i-f-..:,A p;,^..,,.-.;^,-^ 

canyon wall anci soon found the cave right where Jaries had said it 
would be. 

ii c quite 

" vo ac with 
the xcin- ac quite '^^ '^'t that 

pr-> • • • ' ~ and 

th our 

lanar;. - ^hey spent 

several weeKs in the area and found nothing to indicate that they 
were even close. The only encouraging thing was that the landmarks 
were in existence right where James had described them. They went 
back to Washington guite disappointed but determined to return the 
next summer for another look. 


Close up of Cave 

The landlady returned several summers to the Kelly's Canyon 
area. Her success was the same each year. In frustration she blew 
up several cottonwood trees which had been mentioned as landmarks 
by James. After a few summers she was never seen in the vicinity 
again. The story of what she was looking for did come out. 
Perhaps her frustration with the labor and no discoveries caused 
her to talk. Bit-by-bit the story came out and the landmarks were 

Listed below are the landmarks which the landlady obtained 
from James and which she used in her efforts to find the treasure. 

1. Large rock balanced on a larger base. 

2. The creek crosses the old worn trail. 

3. Near by stood a lone cottonwood tree. 


4. Beyond that a small canyon branches with cottonwood 
tree in the center. 

5. At the (Left blank. Possibly meant base.) of 
the cottonwood tree in the slope of the smaller 

canyon is a hole in a small (Left blank. 
Possibly meant cave.) just small enough to crawl in. 

6. I could see the junction of the two canyons, the two 

cottonwoods, the old trail where it crosses the 
creek, and up the entire slope of the draw looking 


7. The treasure will be found at the two imaginary 
lines drawn from the four landmarks. 

It is estimated that the original theft came to fifty thousand 
dollars in gold plus whatever the passengers were carrying. 
Assuming James and Hall split the cash and incidentals, the 
treasure would still be intact. Fifty thousand dollars at fifteen 
dollars an ounce, as the price was in the days of the robbery, 
would suggest the gold weighed about two hundred and seventy 
pounds. This is using twelve troy ounces to the pound. Under 
today's (April, 1991) prices of about three hundred and sixty 
dollars per ounce, the treasure would have increased from the fifty 
thousand to about one million, two hundred thousand dollars. 
Sounds like enough to cause one to want to look for it. 

If you can get yourself into the Heise Hot Springs area east 
of Ririe, Idaho, getting to the treasure site is easy. You drive 
past Heise until you come to a split in the road. Take the left 
hand, paved fork and continue up the road. 

Today there is an oiled road going up Kelly's Canyon with a 
ski resort just a few miles up from the mouth of the canyon. There 
is a stream flowing on the right side of the road for most of the 
canyon. As you drive up the canyon watch on the right side of the 
road for the rock formation described above. Not too far up the 
canyon you can see a large rock balanced on a smaller base. The 
large rock almost resembles an ice cream cone balanced the way that 
it is. This rock suggests that you are in the vicinity of the lost 

Just past the rock a smaller canyon branches to the left. 
This is called Little Kelly's Canyon. There is a large grassy area 
at the mouth of this smaller canyon with a little stream flowing 
down through the middle of it. The grassy area has been used for 
picnics and the parking of vehicles. 

There is a grove of trees on the southwest side of the stream. 
There is also a cliff on the left side of the canyon and a lesser 
sloped rise on the right. Straight ahead the canyon narrows and 
then it opens up again. Walk to the large canyon wall that appears 
in front and to the right forming the narrow opening. Cross to the 
left and jump across the stream. You will be in the grove of 
trees. If you look to the left and up, you will discover a small 
cave in the wall of rock on the left canyon wall. Don't go beyond 
the narrow part of the canyon. 


The north slope of Little Kelley's, under the shale 
is where I think the gold is probably buried. 

Climb up the trail leading to the cave. James says that he 
could see where he buried the gold from where he was inside of the 
cave. You can climb into the cave or just stand near the front of 
it and see what can be observed. There is not a large amount of 
land in your vision. 

Looking from the cave entrance enables you to see the many 
landmarks mentioned and supposedly the spot where the gold was 
covered up. You can see where the trail probably went. You can 
see where the creek probably crossed the trail although it may have 
wandered from spot to spot over the years. There are several 
Cottonwood trees around the area. The small canyon is obvious. It 
is easy to see the description given on the number six of the list 
of landmarks. All one has to do is decide how to draw the lines 
right that will mark the site of the treasure. 

Put yourself 
efforts in trying 
had the foresight 
the gold may be 

in James' position and you can almost imagine his 
to hide the gold. I have often wondered if he 
to bring a shovel along. I think not. I feel 

located under rocks on the right side of the 

Many have searched for this treasure in vain. Rumors suggest 
that it may have been found years ago, but I doubt this as it would 
be extremely hard to keep such a find secret for this long of a 
time. It does create a good story. I took a group of cub scouts 
and their parents to the canyon to tell them of the story as part 
of their outing. The young kids got so excited to be in the 


vicinity of a buried treasure. One of their parents had a metal 
detector and found a spot where it registered metal. The kids 
immediately began tearing at the ground with their bare hands. 
They came up with a few buried cans. They did this same thing 
several times until they realized that this was a popular picnic 

It seems likely to me that the gold will remain in its hiding 
spot until someone comes along to make the right assumption as to 
how the landmarks are to be used. One day someone will stumble 
over the right rock pile and uncover a piece of leather or some 
other clue leading to the treasure. 

Mud Lake Treasure 

Interstate 15 from Montana to Utah is almost the same road as 
the historic trail that led from the Virginia City gold mines to 
the railroad in Ogden. Gold often traveled south on this road 
while supplies for the mines came north. Since there were many 
gold coaches traveling the road it became a prime target for those 
who wished to obtain their treasure in a less strenuous way than 
with pan or pick. 

The early days of the gold discoveries of Idaho in 1861 to 
Montana in 1862 brought many travelers through Eastern Idaho. The 
early 60 's saw many gold laden wagons, stagecoaches, and mules 
traveling down the road. At first much of the gold was shipped in 
the original dust but that became too easy for the outlaws. Then 
the ore was melted into bars which were too heavy to be transported 
easily by an outlaw. This was to keep it from becoming too easy a 

In 1864 a trio of outlaws of the Henry Plummer gang from 
Montana decided to rob a stage. They had scouted well and knew 
that the Jefferson County was quite isolated. They stopped the 
stage and relieved it of the express box full of gold. There is 
quite a controversy which will probably never be solved as to how 
much gold was really in the box. Some feel it was only a few 
pounds while others feel that it may have been as high as seven 
hundred pounds. The general figure that is tossed around the most 
is that its value was $160,000. This would have been computed at 
the 15$-20$ per ounce as was the price in 1864. A little computing 
at today's (April, 1991) prices of $380 per ounce and the treasure 
would be worth around $3,040,000. 

Two of the outlaws were killed by a posse right after the 
robbery. The third buried the box near where Camas Creek flows 
into Mud Lake as he was being hotly pursued by the lawmen. Without 
the burden of the gold he was able to escape and it is thought that 
he went back East. There he got into trouble with the law again 


-** ■ It." -■■■■ *^" 


■J . 

^~t W '*^ ;> 




l>v-,.:,,^-; y .; 

Entrance to Mud Lake Wildlife Management 

and was put in jail. While in jail he told of his lost treasure 
and drew a map of where it was buried. Apparently he felt he was 
to be in jail for a long time or he hoped that the soon to be 
released friend would find the gold and help him to get out. 

In 1910 a man appeared in the Mud Lake area and told of his 
plans to build a better dike on the lake so that he could improve 
the irrigation of the surrounding farms. He hired a crew of 
workers and was then joined by a woman who was known 
'crystal gazer. ' She would look into the crystal and then 
men where to work. One day the man quit all work on the 
He paid his workers and told them not to come back. It 
that he had found the treasure as a few days later the 
woman disappeared. 

to be a 
tell the 
was felt 
man and 

The locals, who knew of the treasure, did not want to believe 
that the gold had been found. Many of the local residents have 
looked for the gold. 

In 1941 there was a flurry of excitement as a group of men got 
together with a metal detector and dug into the mud of the lake. 
They were unsuccessful in finding the treasure but they caused a 
great amount of interest. More of the locals tried their hand at 
finding the loot. The most persistent was Mel Neilson of Hamer. 
He built a pier that led out into the lake. He felt sure that he 
knew where the gold was but it never surfaced. 


To the left of the hill in the center of the picture 
is where Camas Creek enters the Mud Lake. The lost 
treasure is supposed to be near the mouth of the 

There have been other stories of prospectors finding the gold 
but there never was any evidence to support them. If gold was 
found it would not be that easy to dispose of particularly during 
the first half of the Twentieth Century. It was against the law to 
own gold. It would have to have been reported. That much gold 
would have brought newspaper coverage. 

Another account suggests the robbery was in 1865 and was 
committed by the "famous" Guiness and Updike gang. They were seen 
throwing gold bars into this "deep" lake just before a posse caught 
them. This story says an amateur treasure hunter found three of 
the twenty pound bars in 1901 but the rest are still there. 

I like to think that 
stories of Eastern Idaho. 

it is still there adding to the many 


North Fork of the Teton River 

The North Fork of the Teton River (commonly known as Bitch 
Creek) is the site of a lost gold mine. The names of the men 
associated with this story are not known or the location of the 
mine would be a lot easier to find. 


North Fork of the Teton River (Bitch Creek) looking 
upstream from the highway bridge. 

A farmer began supplementing his income by making monthly 
visits to the North Fork and bringing out small amounts of gold. 
He kept the amounts small to ensure the continued production of the 
mine and to avoid the rush a large deposit of gold would bring. He 
would not register a claim because the land was private, although 
it was located in the side of the canyon wall where it was not 
being used for any other productive purpose. 

This procedure went on for many years until a sizable hole had 
been picked out of the rock and it was beginning to resemble a real 
mine. Those who were curious about where the gold was coming from 
were told stories of the Teton Mountain Range and other areas. 
Attempts to follow him failed as he always seemed to be able to 
detect them and would turn back. No doubt the would be claim 
jumpers had the miner very nervous and he began to suspect 
everyone. His health began to suffer. 

He took his eight year old son to the edge of the canyon and 
showed him where the mine was located. In the next few years the 
father died. The family moved to Utah and the mine was forgotten. 



.sJl - ^- 

I 4 

: :---.**^ 

North Fork of the Teton River (Bitch Creek) looking 
downstream. There is a lot of black sand in this 
stream suggesting the presence of gold. 

The son was in his twenties when he returned to the North Fork 
of the Teton River. The ravages of winter and erosion had changed 
the canyon. His youthful memories did not prove too strong as he 
was unable to locate for sure the place on the canyon rim where he 
had stood so many years before let alone the site of the mine. He 
hunted along the canyon wall for several weeks but could not even 
find a clue. 

The vein of gold lies above the Highway 32 bridge crossing on 
the North Fork of the Teton River just north of Felt, Idaho. I 
have panned this stream right below the bridge. It has some gold 
flakes in it but has the problem of black sand being present. It 
is a great stream to practice in for beginners in panning. You can 
pan a sand bar down to the black sand in just a few minutes and can 
see a flake of gold in almost every pan. 




Lone Pine Mine 

Rod Gatlor and Ike Mackensie were best of friends who had come 
west to enjoy the scenery and participate in the making of history. 
They traveled extensively throughout the states and ended up in 
Salmon, Idaho, in the spring of 1899. 

Pooling their remaining funds they decided to invest in a 
prospecting venture. They bought horses, mules, supplies, and 
mining equipment. Being greenhorns, they inquired (from several of 
the old timers of Salmon) what direction they should go to find 
their fortune in gold. They were told various stories and advised 
to go in several directions. Almost any direction from Salmon 
would bring one within a former gold claim. 

Finally they set out determined to let the fates take care of 
them. They were mostly out for the adventure of the trip and the 
camping with the thrill of discovery to accompany them. They went 
upstream on the Salmon River for several miles. Noticing a stream 
coming from the west they crossed the river and began panning. Ike 
found color in his second pan. They worked their way up the canyon 
and became more excited with each effort. 

They went through the sand bars and gravel for several weeks 
spending four or five hours a day looking for gold and the rest of 
the time looking for big game and at the scenery. The adventure 
they wanted was the camping and the thrill of being in the West. 

Somewhere in the vicinity of Opal Lake they made a base camp. 
There were several ridges in the area that promised a possibility 
of mountain sheep and they decided to stay for a while. Rod began 
to set up camp and Ike went for a walk to check out the area. He 


walked out on a promontory overlooking the canyon. There he sat 
under a tall pine tree to watch the sunset and reflect on his 
future . 

Across the canyon a herd of elk moved out of a draw. A 
magnificent bull led them up the slope. Ike leaped to his feet to 
go for his gun but the rock crumbled beneath him. He fell to the 
ground. When he got up the elk had disappeared over a far ridge. 

He kicked at the rocks that had been his downfall. Reaching 
down disgustedly he picked up a rock to throw into the canyon. Its 
weight surprised him. By now it was dark so he put the rock into 
his pocket and walked down to the camp. 

They examined the rock in the firelight and could see the 
telltale lines of gold running through it. Excitedly they rushed 
up to the point but it was too dark to observe anything. Trying to 
remain calm they went back to the camp and retired for the evening. 

Both were up at dawn with picks, hammers, and shovels. At the 
base of the pine tree was a large rotten vein of quartz 
interspersed with fine lines of gold. The two prospectors began 
digging and picking, following the vein into the rock. At the end 
of the first days work they had a large pile of gold bearing rock 
and were quite elated. They named their discovery the Lone Pine 
Mine because of the single tree that sat at the head of the rock 
they were digging into. 

After several months they reached the end of their supplies, 
a point in their digging that required blasting before proceeding, 
and a pile of ore that would require overloading of the mules and 
horses to carry it out, A cold wind and a snow shower helped them 
decide to leave. 

They loaded up their gold and got everything ready to leave. 
They then spent a couple of hours hiding the fresh cut they had 
made into the mountain. Satisfied that it would not be stumbled 
upon by chance, they set out for civilization. They set a pace 
that would find them in town in three days if the stock held up 
under their load. 

The morning of the third day they arose shivering to find all 
of their water turned to ice. They had camped on the edge of the 
Salmon River the night before. It had seemed wise not to attempt 
a crossing of the river in the dark. Now, as they gazed at the 
river, there were little chunks of ice floating down. Both sides 
of the river were covered with ice. To their tenderfoot minds this 
scared, but did not give warning of possible danger. 

They saddled their horses with numb fingers, loaded the gold 
on the mules, and started into the river. Ike led, followed by 
loaded mules, and then Rod brought up the rear with his mules. 
Everything went fine until Rod entered the swiftest part of the 
stream. Ike and his mules were climbing out of the water when he 
heard a yell. He turned and saw Rod's horse rearing and Rod 


falling into the swift water. Rod splashed a couple of times and 
then went under. 

Ike abandoned the mules and rode downstream to help. Rod's 
horse came out of the water with his saddle slipped to the side. 
Ike found Rod's hat and then found Rod wedged under a log. He 
pulled him out and carried his lifeless body back to the waiting 
mules. Ike then made his sorrowful way on to Salmon. 

Funeral arrangements were made for Rod and then Ike cashed the 
gold in at the Well Fargo office. It proved to extremely high 
grade ore and he was left with a small fortune. Placing most of 
the money in the bank, Ike went to drown his sorrows in the nearest 

After the funeral, Ike couldn't seem to get himself interested 
in anything. He spent considerable time in the saloons and found 
that he had acquired many new friends. All of his friends were 
urging him to return to the mine as they wanted to help him mine it 
and to share in his new found wealth. 

A disturbing new feeling came into Ike's conscience. Several 
times he overheard comments suggesting that he might have killed 
his partner so that he would not have to share the mine. He lost 
a couple of his new friends when he heard them discussing whether 
or not they could trust him. 

The whole town of Salmon, caught up in mining fever, seemed to 
Ike to be accusing him. He left. He loaded up all his belonging 
in a wagon, told all that he was going back east, and left on the 
road headed for the nearest railhead. His hope was that all would 
believe his story if he never went back to the mine. He sent 
letters from Chicago and New York to his former friends to convince 
all that he was not coming back. 

Ike did not come back. Many of the people of Salmon tried to 
find the trail used by Ike and Rod but it was lost in the rocky 
area of Opal Lake near Taylor Mountain. The two had covered the 
mine sufficiently to make it not easily recognized and it was not 
to be found. 

It is quite probable from the description of the lone pine on 
the edge of a canyon or ridge that it is likely still there. It 
may have been hit by lightning or fallen because of its exposed 
position but the remains of the stump should be there. It is not 
likely that it has been harvested by timber cutters. 

Lidy's Hot Springs Buried Gold 

This story involves another member of the Plummer gang of 
outlaws from Montana. George Ives was one of the most famous of 


the gang. Apparently he burjod 
dollars (1991 value would be njr 
near the I.idv's Hot Sprinr 
of the qanq wr • 
occasion when t!^&\ w^ 


wait : 

^ -^ 

-)3'' ca'^he of fifty thousand 

tv- thousand dollars) 

:ie and others 

Hiver Valley on 

escape from pursuing 

; re while 

A stranger appeared m 1910 in tne town of Dubois, Idaho. He 
was looking for work and soon found a job. He spent his spare time 
looking around the Lidy's Hot Springs area. After he made some 
friends in the area he confided to them, that he had been a guard in 
the Idaho State Penitentiary where he had done many favors for one 
of the inmates. The inmate, whose name was George, responded by 
telling the guard of a treasure he knew of that had been buried 
near the springs. The outlaw apparently felt that his stay in the 
pen was going to be of some length. George would have been getting 
right along in years by the year 1910. 

One of the gulches at Liddy's Hot Springs 

The location of the gold involved a particular tree to be 
found in a certain gulch near the springs. There are many gulches 
in these foothills on both sides of the springs. I visited the 
vicinity of the springs in April, 1991, and found the swimming pool 
gone but the water was flowing down a creek. It appeared that 
there could be several gulches that might fit the description. 
Trees in the desert area are a premium as they were removed either 
for firewood or for building. There are a few juniper trees in 
view from the highway in front of the old swimming pool. They, 
however, do not appear to be eighty years old. 

The stranger spent a lot of time roaming about the area but 
was unable to find what he was looking for. At least he did not 



The old swimming pool at Liddy's Hot Springs was 
on the left side of this picture. On the hill are 
the buildings of a mine shaft in use. 

tell any of his friends that he had found anything and he did not 
leave abruptly which would suggest that he was in a hurry to 
dispose of a found treasure. 

This area is almost as desolate today as it was then. 
However, at the springs site there is a new mine being worked. I 
could not find anyone who could tell me what they were mining but 
there is a large, three story building that appears to house a lift 
wheel that probably goes down into a mine. A few years ago there 
was an environmental draft study done to see of the feasibility of 
growing nursery crops at this site using geo-thermal energy. It 
concluded that it would be quite expensive. I mention the above 
because if a mine is being worked here you would need permission to 
wander about the area looking for a lost treasure. 

Lava Gold 

This lost treasure comes from a robbery but not one on the 
Virginia City to Utah route., There were several producing mines 
in Custer County in the 1880 's. The road from Challis followed the 
present Highway 93 to Arco. From Arco the old road cut across the 
lava to Blackfoot. There it joined the main north/south road to 
Utah. When the railroad arrived at Blackfoot the gold from the 
north and west was loaded there to discourage robberies. It was 
much harder to stop a train than it was to stop a wagon or a coach. 

Tony Bell had fallen on hard times. He had been chased out of 
Wyoming when he was caught adding to his cattle herd from his 
neighbor's. Now he was working in the livery barn in Challis. He 


was sweeping it out and caring for other peoples horses, 
not to excited about it. 

He was 

However, within view of his work at the livery was the 
excitement around the Wells Fargo office. Gold shipments created 
activity as they went out oi the town on a weekly basis. He 
studied the care with v/hich the shipments were loaded. He watched 
the guards as they maintained a security check. He noticed how 
many guards were on the stage and in the stage. Often there were 
not many inside. Perhaps the company had become lax because there 
had been no attempts to steal from them on this particular route. 
The amounts of gold varied from week to week as prospectors from 
outlying areas brought their ore in at various unscheduled times. 

When he felt he had the routine down as well as possible, Tony 
quit his job and took a leisurely ride from Challis towards 
Blackfoot. As he rode he watched for any possible hiding places 
where he could stop the stage. He found several places that looked 
likely. He would hide himself in ambush and go through a dry run 
of the robbery. Each of the sites chosen was eliminated through 
this trial and error method. Finally he chose the right spot. 

He camped in the area and watched three passenger coaches come 
by as he planned and practiced his robbery. Finally he was ready. 
The next stage by should be the gold coach. He climbed a high rock 
abutment and watch for it to come. 

1. J.Airi~-j!?SsSto SJiLiK^SM 


Typical stagecoach of 1860-80 

There are three large buttes rising out of the lava between 
Arco and Blackfoot. The eastern and middle buttes are only three 
miles apart and the southern one is several miles from them. The 
southern butte towers two thousand, three hundred and fifty feet 
above the rest of the lava and resembles a small mountain range. 


There are two small streams flowing off the large southern butte 
that made it an ideal stopping place for travelers across the lava 

Just to the southeast of the butte the trail narrowed because 
of the lava flow. The smarter stage drivers slowed to a walk to 
make sure there was no damage to their wheels in this tight trail. 
They could not turn around in that part of the road and there was 
excellent cover for the would be outlaw. 

As the stage approached the narrow strip it slowed down to a 
walk. No one wanted to hit a protruding piece of lava and break 
down in the middle of the desert. At this point in the desert the 
driver, guards, and passengers had had enough of the desert. Many 
of them were asleep or almost asleep. The driver had to be 
cautious because of the trail but the rest succumbed to the heat 
and the motion of the coach. 

There was a shout to stop and all jumped to attention. Bell 
stood by the right side of the road with his gun leveled. A large 
pile of rock and brush was in the road and they had to stop. Bell 
told them they were covered by others so they should not try 
anything. They looked to the left and saw another outlaw behind a 
rock with his rifle and hat showing. 

Bell had all the passengers get out. He then collected all 
their valuables. There was no strongbox but his previous 
observation had noticed packages wrapped in canvas being loaded at 
the Wells Fargo office. He had the driver and guard lift the 
package and tumble it over the side of the stage. Collecting all 
their guns he then allowed the passengers to get back on the stage. 
During all this procedure he directed conversation to his partner 
from time to time. The stage then proceeded on its way southeast 
down the narrow lava corridor towards Blackfoot. 

Now all he had to do was escape. He retrieved his hat and 
rifle from his scarecrow rock and then got his horse ready to leave 
in the case it became necessary. He then approached the canvas 
wrapped bundle. Untying the straps around it he was able to take 
hold of the canvas and roll out the contents. He was staring at 
two large bars of gold. 

He remembered talk of making gold hard to steal by melting it 
into long bars weighing over one hundred pounds each. The bars 
were actually one hundred twenty-five pounds each. He covered them 
up with the canvas and spent an hour trying to find a hiding place 
for them. His idea was to leave them there for a time until the 
fervor died out and then he would come back for them at his 
leisure. In the meantime he could live from the cash he had taken 
from the passengers. 

He found a hole (small cave) in the lava just off the road. 
He carried and dragged the bars to the hole and placed them in it. 
Then he covered the area with sagebrush, carefully smoothed out the 


marks of his passage, and fixed very precisely in his mind the 
location of the gold. 

Bell then set out to lose himself for a time. His travel went 
generally to the northwest. 

In the meantime the stage went into Blackfoot. There an alarm 
was sounded and the Wells Fargo men organized a posse. They picked 
up an Indian scout and went to the site of the robbery. There they 
established the fact that only one man was involved in the crime. 
They also spent some time at the scene looking for the gold as they 
could tell that he did not have two horses and so did not take the 
gold with him. 

The tracks of Bell's horse were found and they set out in 
pursuit of him. He had followed the main road for several miles 
and then turned north. A passing freighter had not seen a lone 
rider and this had alerted the posse to look for where he might 
have turned off. 

As Bell moved northward his tracks were easier to follow. He 
was making no attempt to cover them up as he felt he was in the 
clear. There was little traffic in the whole area in those days so 
there was nothing but his tracks to follow. The posse made good 
time. They passed present day Howe and turned northwest again into 
the Little Lost River Valley. 

A couple of days later the posse arrived in the town of Salmon 
having followed Bell up the Little Lost River, down the Pahsimeroi 
River to the Salmon River, and then down it to the town. The posse 
split up and looked for him in all the bars in town hoping that he 
had decided to spend a few days in a town. They soon located their 
suspect and the word went around until they were all gathered in 
the Last Chance saloon. 

Two of the posse approached Bell while the rest spread out 
through the room. With one lawman on each side they pulled their 
guns and confronted their suspect. A quick search of his clothes 
produced a watch that had been stolen from one of the passengers. 
Bell then admitted his guilt. 

It was decided to return to the scene of the robbery to see if 
they could convince Bell to show them where the gold was hidden. 
He was tied to his horse both at the ankles and his hands. The 
posse was taking no chance on his escaping. 

On the trip back Bell showed amazing cooperation. He told his 
captors that this was his first offense and he offered to lead them 
to the gold. His casual, friendly manner soon disarmed the posse. 
Some of them came to look upon him as a cowboy who had more than 
his share of bad luck. Towards the end of their journey they even 
quit tying him. He was cooperative in every way and did not try to 
or even hint at escape. He seemed to feel bad about the robbery 
and wanted to put it right. 


The sun was rapidly approaching the western mountain range as 
the group moved into the lava. Bell studied the area as they came 
to the site of the robbery. The sun was now down but it was still 
light. He lined up the sagebrush and rocks. The posse looked 
around the area and found nothing. Bell looked again squinting 
into the gathering darkness. He made a comment about lining up the 
wrong rock. He then moved to one side, rode behind a large rock, 
and disappeared. 

He was gone for several seconds before the posse realized it. 
They quickly searched in the dark but he was gone. The next 
morning an extensive search was made but no trace of the outlaw or 
his horse was found. 

The posse spent several days searching the area for the gold 
but were unsuccessful in their efforts. They were also 
unsuccessful in their search for Bell. He had disappeared 
completely. The two bars of gold together weighed nearly two 
hundred and fifty pounds. At current prices for gold (April, 1991) 
that amounts to over one million dollars. 

Rumor has it that Bell ended up in Arizona and never came back 
fearing the relentless pursuit of Wells Fargo. The story is told 
that someone showed up in Arco, Idaho, a few years back with a map. 
He asked directions to the old road to Blackfoot and spent several 
weeks in the area. It was felt that he had not found anything when 
he left. 

Currently there is a road going to the top of the butte that 
is kept is fair repair. The view from the top of the butte is 
spectacular, however, a four wheel drive and a lot of courage are 
needed to take the trip to the top. Getting to the butte is not a 
problem. The way the Idaho lava has formed it is easy to see why 
one could not find the hole from directions or from a map. There 
are too many formations which appear similar that could fit any 
description. Bell is dead by now and the two bars are waiting for 

Menan Buttes 

As a young man in high school in the 50 's I heard of a 
treasure supposedly buried in the "Rustlers Corral" on the south 
side of the large butte. This larger of the two volcanic cones was 
used by cattle rustlers to hold their stolen herds until pursuit 
died down. From their lofty perch they could see any posse coming 
and leave. 

Outlaws would move the herds eastward into Wyoming to sell 
them or if they had come from that direction they moved them 
further into Idaho to sell. 




smalj n 
s i z a h 
the c*-? 


SI .-i ■ 

: e IS a 

kept a 

•^^ this 

^.em in 

■^' has 



The gap to the left of center at the top of this 
picture of the butte is the entrance to the small 
corral. It is very rough lava. 



This picture of the buttes shows the larger butte 
on the left. This is the one in which the gold 
is supposed to have been buried. 


My understanding of the story is that V^^^^^^^^ .\^^^^^^,^ Hl^H 
from four different prominent points mside this small corral 
across it. Where they make an "X" there is supposed to be a 
treasure buried. 

The corral is formed by lava. Erosion and dust have placed a 
silt covering on the bottom that is several feet m depth in some 
areas. A metal detector would find the residue of many a scout 
camp with buried cans. 

My friends and I have dug around this corral from time to time 
and found nothing. We may not have hit all the places in the 
corral but we hit a lot of them. We also strung string from almost 
every place that we could tie it. If the treasure ever was there 
it probably still is. 

The best part of looking for this treasure is the view of the 
valley that it gives you from the rim of the crater. You can see 
into Montana and Wyoming. A knowledgeable person could name all of 
the mountain ranges that converge on the Snake River Plain from the 
west that are seen clearly. 

Holdup Rock - Beaver Canyon 

Here is the Plummer gang again. In studying all the things 
that were blamed on this group they had to be large and scattered 
all over the West. It seemed that they were so popular that it was 
easy to blame them for any hold-up in the entire area. An outlaw 
who wanted to send a posse the wrong direction could suggest he was 
a member of the gang. The posse would then think that he would be 
headed for Montana while he made his escape elsewhere. 

This story involved gold in the amount of seventy-five 
thousand dollars (April, 1991, one million, four hundred twenty- 
five thousand dollars) and happened just north of Spencer, Idaho, 
in Clark County. There were several places on the trail/road from 
Virginia City to Utah that seemed to be perfect for a holdup. The 
outlaws knew where all these places were and so did the stage 
drivers. Just north of Spencer there is a place on the old road 
where rocks on both sides of the path were close to the road. The 
rocks were so close that travelers had to slow right down to avoid 
damage to their vehicles. This is where the robbery took place. 

There were four outlaws in the group that held up the stage. 
The usual process for a robbery was to have something in the road 
that would force the stage to stop. This would be arranged around 
a corner so that there would not be a chance to turn around or get 
ready to defend themselves. The outlaws stepped out from the rocks 
and stopped the coach. The driver had no choice but to throw down 
the gold box. As the outlaws turned to leave the driver chose to 


■J? ^.- 

, or 

X .*: t^i 

Oy • 

>Vv V 

shoot at them. They returned the fire and 
some of the passengers were hurt. 

The stage continued on dov;n the 
road and ran into a group of riders. 
Upon hearing of the story the group 
became a posse and went after the 
robbers. They cornered the outlaws in a 
canyon and there was a shoot out. Two 
of the outlaws were killed outright and 
the other two were hanged shortly after. 
The box of gold was never found. 

When the Utah Northern railroad 
went through the Monida Pass into 
Montana the area near the robbery became 
quite a lively town known as Beaver 
Canyon. The story of the robbery made 
for great discussion among the residents 
and transients of the community as it 
was common knowledge that the treasure 
chest was never recovered. Many of them 
looked for the treasure. Some of them 
kept the story alive as it kept people 
in town for a longer time spending their 

It has always been told that the 
gold was buried near the railroad "Y" 
near the town of Beaver Canyon although 
there is nothing to support why this was the location. There is 
not much left of Beaver Canyon today and unless you can find good 
directions would drive right by it without knowing you were there. 

Buffalo River 

It is amazing to me that there could be so many buried 
treasures and one lost mine connected to the same river. The 
Buffalo River is quite short compared to most rivers. It is only 
a few miles long from its source to its confluence with the Snake 
River. Yet there are almost a dozen lost treasures connected to 
the stream and one lost mine. 

I have studied the history of the area and of Eastern Idaho to 
see why outlaws performing a robbery on the trail from Montana to 
Utah would chose this river as the place to hide their gold. There 
are no frequented trails running near the river or any old 
establishments that would suggest resupply or rest. The only 
reason I can supply for this much traffic would be that it does 


form a sort of natural way to get out of Idaho into Wyoming. The 
robberies occurred in the west on the trail. The natural escape to 
the east would be up the Shotgun Valley to Island Park. Then you 
would turn southeast to head for the low hills traversed by the 
Reclamation Road to get into northern Jackson Hole. This route 
would take you by the Buffalo River. 

The following stories are regarding treasures that were buried 
in the vicinity of the Buffalo River. There is also one lost gold 
mine in the area. I have reserved for the time being a few of the 
details of this lost mine as it is one that I am currently 
investigating. Sorry about that. 

Buffalo River I 

Jake Donahue and his friend, Harry Winston, found themselves 
in strange company. It was July, 1863. My story says this was the 
date but just below it suggests this group made their alliance in 
the town of Blackfoot. Blackfoot was not in existence in 1863 so 
I would suggest the robbery took place at a much later date. 

A party of seven men were camped on the road just south of 
present day Pocatello in the Portneuf Canyon. They had made the 
strange alliance the night before in a bar in Blackfoot. A large 
man known only to them as Bart had approached the two men to enlist 
their aid in a project to relieve a shipment of gold from Virginia 
City, Montana, miners. The two had obviously appeared to be the 
type who would join in a venture. Bart's story of instant riches 
had sounded good and now Jack and Harry were crouched by the road 
waiting in the Idaho summer heat for the signal to attack. 

A large tree had been chopped down across the road just beyond 
where the path turned a corner. As the stage came around the 
corner the driver hauled back on the reins and slid the coach to a 
stop. The sudden stop upset the guard and threw all the passengers 
from their seats. Before they could recover and react they were 
under the guns of several outlaws. 

All the passengers were lined up outside the stage. One of 
them kept staring at Bart. The passengers said, "I know you, 
you're...!" A shot rang out and then two more. Then there seemed 
to be a general exchange of gunfire. 

When the smoke cleared two of the passengers and one guard 
were dead and two of the others were laying on the ground wounded. 
The outlaws took the valuables from the passengers and the 
strongbox from the coach. There was one hundred fifteen thousand 
dollars in gold (over two million, one hundred thousand dollars 
April, 91) in the strong box. 

The outlaws mounted and moved out to the north. One had his 
arm bandaged and the other wounded man has been hit in the stomach. 
He was tied onto his horse so they could continue. 


yai'o i 


rtio'r- ^iX' 

-< T- V f? 

-» T-^ 



A Common Confrontation 

Their plan of escape was to follow the road northward to 
Spencer and then turn east to lose themselves in the forests of 
Island Park. From there they could split up and go in many 

The stagecoach driver got the passengers and victims loaded 
and proceeded on his way. They went only a few miles before they 
met a long train of freight wagons. The remaining guard organized 
a posse to give immediate chase. They picked up reinforcements at 
Blackfoot and were not too far behind the outlaw group. 

Jake and Harry were riding along in shock. They had not 
envisioned a gun fight and especially any deaths. They made plans 
to escape as soon as possible from the rest of the outlaw band. 
They had approached Bart for a split of the loot. He told them 
there was no time to divide it up until they were free from 
pursuit. They would split the gold when they camped at Camas 
Meadows. Jake suggested to Harry that they would leave as soon as 
the split was made and they could sneak away. 

When they arrived in the Kilgore/Camas Meadows area there were 
some strong feelings emerging. The man wounded in the stomach was 
getting worse. Bart was becoming impossible to be with as he was 
demanding everyone follow his rules completely. Most of the rest 
were trying to ignore him. There was a lot of excitement to split 
the gold as no one really knew exactly how much gold they had. 


Each Individual Hid His Gold 

They gathered around the fire and Bart brought out a set of 
scales. It took about an hour to divide the gold into seven parts. 
As they split up for the evening each man hid his share as now the 
uniting force of the undivided gold was gone. Each was on his own. 

The next day they all set out with each making his own plans 
for the future. As they started into the Shotgun Valley, Harry 
looked back and saw a group of riders coming out of the trees. He 
let out a shout and they all spurred into a gallop. Shots were 
exchanged but the two groups were too far apart for any accuracy. 

After a quick burst of speed they slowed their horses to save 
their strength in case of a need for speed. They also turned off 
the trail hoping to lose the posse. Bart cursed Jake and Harry 
blaming them for the posse catching up. It made no sense but they 
had been the most vocal regarding the need to split the gold. Bart 
seemed to think the time taken splitting the gold was the reason 
the posse had caught up. 

The posse fell quickly behind as they lost the outlaws in the 
trees. They had ridden hard from the scene of the robbery to Fort 
Hall where they had exchanged their horses. Then they rode 
steadily to Spencer where another horse exchange was accomplished. 
They were on fresh mounts as they followed the outlaws to Kilgore 
only to lose them in the trees and darkness. 

The posse camped only a mile from the fugitives that night but 
neither group was aware of the other. It had been as much a 
surprise for the posse when they emerged from the trees to see 


their quarry ahead as it had been for the outlaws. The darkness 
did not allow them to see where the outlaws turned from the trail 
and they had to camp to wait for light to continue tracking. The 
outlaws did not need to track and fled quickly to the east. 

Two of the outlaw horses gave out at the Buffalo River. 
Supplies and gold were carried by the remaining men and the two ran 
alongside for a couple of miles. Then another horse collapsed. A 
council was held and it was decided to make a stand against the 
posse. Each outlaw was assigned an area to guard. Each again hid 
his portion of the gold, burying it in a place close to his 

Early in the morning three of the men were missing. They had 
left without horses, determined to walk out of the country. Their 
gold was too heavy to carry and it was left where they had buried 
it. The four left were Jake, Harry, Bart, and the wounded one. 
Bart was furious and began berating the others blaming them for 
everything that had gone wrong. 

Bart checked his wounded friend and found that he had died 
during the night. This added to his fury. He was building himself 
into a maniacal rage. Jake and Harry cowered before him but 
remain alert, fearing an attack. 

Bart grabbed for his gun but in his rage dropped it. Jake and 
Harry both fired and killed him. Fearing the shots would bring the 
posse they quickly saddled up and left. They did not take time to 
dig up their gold shares as they heard a horse whinny. They moved 
eastward, trying to hurry in the dark of pre-dawn, and said good 
riddance to the gold that had caused them so much trouble. 

The posse followed as far as the Buffalo River where they 
lost the trail. They heard the shots and the next morning found 
the camp. They collected the two bodies and then searched for sign 
of the others. They could not find anything. Many of the posse 
wanted to quit pursuit as they had jobs and work in the mines 
waiting for them in Virginia City. What had seemed like a lark in 
the chase had turned into real work and the pay was not that 
rewarding. The decision was made to abandon the chase to the 
regular law enforcement officials. The posse returned to Virginia 

The passengers killed in the original robbery were prominent 
men in Virginia City. Their friends offered a bounty on the 
outlaws and also hired professional man hunters to find and kill 
the surviving outlaws. The three were killed in Jackson Hole, 
Wyoming. Jake and Harry disappeared. They were apparently wise 
enough to take heed of the warnings and rumors and left the country 

The Buffalo River is not very long. It is only about ten 
miles in length. The seven piles of gold that were buried by these 
outlaws are thought to be within several yards of each other and 
not too far from the shores of the river. Since there would be 


•''■ *5'X:=*r<'v 


considerable publicity connected to the discovery of one of these 
caches of gold it is assumed that they are still there. 

Buffalo River II 

A series of robberies and attempted robberies of gold in the 
latter 1860 's from Virginia City, Montana, gave Gus Haroldson an 
inventive idea. He went to several mine owners and convinced them 
that a secret mule train loaded with gold could get through where 
the stage coaches were being stopped. The owners were so 
enthusiastic about the idea that he soon had more mules and gold 
than he could handle on his own. The owners suggested that he hire 
someone to help but not let him know what was being carried. 

Tim Harper was in Virginia City and had just been fired as a 
guard at one of the larger mines. He had been on a double shift 
and had gone to sleep on duty. He normally was a very 
conscientious worker but the extra work combined with the boredom 
of the job had done him in and he went to sleep. 

Now he was out of work. Gus approached him for help in taking 
the supply mules back to Salt Lake City to obtain things needed for 
the mines. Tim had a good reputation and Gus felt that he could 
handle the job. He offered Tim the going wage and they set a date 
for leaving. 

When Tim arrived it was midnight. He thought it was a strange 
time to leave but that was what his orders had been. He also 
thought it was strange that the mules seemed to be loaded. He had 
thought they were going to be traveling empty. He decided he would 
investigate out on the trail to see what they were carrying. He 
was not a dummy and had a suspicion they might be carrying gold. 

One string of mules was ready and Tim was told to start out on 
a trail over the hills that paralleled the road to Salt Lake City. 
Gus would soon follow and catch up somewhere down the line. 

Tim set a fast pace and was several miles ahead by the time 
the sun came up. He moved along all day at a good rate and gained 
more distance. That night he looked inside the packs and found 
them full of gold. Each sack weighted one hundred pounds and each 
mule carried two sacks. 

The next day Tim spent reflecting on the deception played upon 
him. He grew angrier with each passing mile. He was being paid 
trail wages and "not guarding gold" wages. More pay was going to 
be demanded of Gus when they got together. The deception continued 
to bother him as he progressed down the trail. 

Moving out of the pass through the mountains dividing Montana 
and Idaho Tim entered the sagebrush and lava of the Snake River 


^ Pi • 



'■('-, ■T'-r.^~ 

''■'." ' ':.i ' '.-lissC'- 

% '*^f^ "^ 

The lava area of the Snake River Plain was excellent 
for hiding anything. There are many small caves 
that could hold gold bars or a sack of dust. The 
problem was finding the hiding place again as the 
country tends to look the same. 

Plain near Dubois, Idaho. He stopped the mules for a rest. His 
anger caught him up in an elaborate scheme. He took two bags of 
gold from two of the mules and hid them in a cave. He then 
proceeded on down the road to Blackfoot. He encountered no problem 
on the rest of the trip. 

He reported to the freight company office that he had lost two 
mules for a while. He claimed to have run into a swarm of bees and 
two of the mules had charged away wildly through the desert. He 
had tied the rest of the mules and then followed the two errant 
animals. He caught the mules but their empty packs were torn from 
the brush and rocks and were no longer usable. The sacks had been 
discarded as being totally useless. Tim was advised to remain in 
town to wait for Gus before moving on. Tim was planning to remain 
in town because he wanted his pay for trailing the mules. 

Gus arrived later in the day and was very agitated at not 
having caught up. He was furious when told of the bee story and he 
accused Tim of stealing the gold. Tim claimed innocence and 
expressed surprise that they had been carrying gold. He even 
exhibited some anger at carrying gold and not being made aware of 


The missing gold amounted to four hundred pounds in weight. 
This would amount to just under two and one half million dollars 
(April, 1991.) 

Gus threatened Tim with jail but a judge told him there was no 
evidence. Tim was allowed to go free proclaiming his innocence and 
griping about being hired to take care of the mules without the 
knowledge of their being loaded with gold. He talked a lot about 
not knowing of the gold and how his life was in jeopardy because of 

Several men were hired to watch Tim and to follow him if he 
left Blackfoot. Tim bought an outfit and supplies. He also bought 
a couple of mules. He stayed around town for a week to relax the 
vigilance of his watchers and then he left. He told any who wanted 
to know that he was headed for the mines of the Challis area and 
left traveling west. He went west for several days and then could 
detect no one on his trail. He then turned north. By the time he 
came to the vicinity of the gold he had lost all pursuit. 

He located the gold and moved as quickly as he could to the 
east. After several miles his horse came up lame as it had scraped 
itself on the sharp lava. He redistributed the load and climbed on 
a mule himself. He turned the horse loose. Now he panicked, 
feeling that his rapid means of escape was gone. He rushed on into 
Island Park. 

The pace was too much on his heavily loaded mules. They could 
go no further with the double loads. They were worn out 
completely. At the Buffalo River he decided to bury the gold. 
Fearing discovery of the hidden treasure he placed the gold in two 
different sites. That way if one were found the other would remain 
hidden. He then mounted the stronger mule and decided to return to 
Fort Hall to further establish his claim of innocence. This would 
also eliminate some of the pursuit. Time always seems to lessen 
the degree of the chase. 

The men following Tim had lost his trail on the lava west of 
the Snake River. They knew the robbery had taken place north of 
the Market Lake but south of the range of mountains in the Rocky 
Mountains that separate Montana from Idaho. They split up to see 
if they could find any sign of his trail. 

Carefully moving along the main road they came to a spot where 
a horse and two mules had crossed. The horse showed signs of 
bleeding as spots of blood were seen. The track of the horse were 
the same that they had been following when they left Blackfoot. 
They had found their man. They also noted that the mules were 
leaving a deeper track in the sand than before. This caused them 
to assume that the gold had been picked up and increased their 
desire to catch up. 

They went through the Kilgore area, up the Shotgun Valley, and 
into Island Park. They crossed the Snake River and began following 
the Buffalo River upstream. At a pause, while the horses were 


t bs»":J"?''">ii'" 



resting, they heard a sound of someone approaching. The posse hid 

watched a lone man riding a mule get right up to 

in the trees and 
them before they 

rode out. 

One of the treasure sites was located between the 
lodge and the Island Park Dam. This is the 
Buffalo River looking downstream from the bridge. 

Tim was caught completely by surprise. He did not even 
attempt to put up a fight. They quickly disarmed him and then 
tried to get a confession regarding the robbery from him. It was 
obvious that he did not have the gold with him. He was not about 
to admit to the robbery as he felt that they might just kill him 
and not let him go to jail. Several of the posse had been robbed 
from before and might just be inclined to do some vigilante 

Methods of persuasion in the Old West could sometimes get 
quite rough. The posse put a rope around his neck to scare him. 
He was scared. He then confessed to the robbery and told them that 
he had buried the gold in two separate places. Then he realized 
that keeping the location of the gold secret might be the only 
thing between him and a hanging. He clammed up. They questioned 
and threatened but he would not say any more. In desperation they 
pulled the rope tight one too many times and he died. 

The posse left Tim hanging from the tree as they tried to 
trail the mule. They lost the trail in the river although they did 
find the second mule. They hunted up and down the river trying to 
find sign of the land being disturbed. They finally tired of their 


efforts and went back to Blackfoot. The luckless outlaw was left 
hanging in the tree. 

Rumor tells that many years later a man who had been working 
on the dam of the Island Park reservoir stumbled over a rock. The 
rock turned out to be a skull. This man had heard the story and 
upon investigation found a frayed piece of rope in a near tree. He 
knew the story of the lost treasure and began a systematic search 
of the area. 

Apparently he found one of the burial sites and took the gold. 
Then he left the country. The story suggests that he sold the gold 
in Pocatello and then disappeared. This was in the days when it 
was against the law to own refined gold in the United States. 
Perhaps this is why he didn't want to stay around longer to look 
for the other treasure. 

With this discovery there would still be about one and a 
quarter million dollars worth of gold left in the two bars that 
should weight nearly one hundred pounds apiece. Perhaps the 
weathering of the past hundred years might have exposed a gold bar 
or the corner of a bar. 

Buffalo River III 

In 1880 the town of Bonanza in Custer County was one of the 
largest towns in the territory of Idaho. It had over ten thousand 
inhabitants and all of the various buildings which accompany a town 
of that size. Today it is a ghost town hiding the knowledge that 
large amounts of gold were taken out of this placer mining area of 

Angus Rockwell was a drifter. He made his living following 
the gold camps doing odd jobs for the miners. He was sweeping the 
saloon next door to the freight office when he overheard the guards 
discussing the next gold shipment. His job didn't seem worthy of 
keeping the conversation down. He heard enough to know that they 
were leaving the next day with a wagon load of gold. 

The guards arose at three in the morning. It took them an 
hour to harness the six horses and load the boxes of gold. They 
were carrying one hundred fifty thousand dollars (April, 1991, 
prices would be just under four million dollars) worth of gold. 
This amounted to some six hundred pounds of the ore. No one 
noticed their departure and they were in good spirits as they moved 
down the road. 

A few miles out of Bonanza the trail went through a narrow 
defile. Just after they entered the gorge a voice ordered them to 
stop. The two guards and the driver were exposed sitting in the 
wagon and they could do nothing to defend themselves. The guards 



Typical Wagon With Guards 

did not know how many were stopping them or where they might be 
located. It seemed like the perfect spot for the perfect crime. 

The voice instructed them to throw their guns over the road 
into the creek bed. Then they were ordered to throw the boxes of 
gold off the wagon. One guard objected and was immediately shot in 
the shoulder. The others tumbled the boxes out of the wagon 
without further argument. They were then told to proceed on down 
the canyon and to not return. 

Agnus knew they would return but hoped that he could be well 
on his way before they were able to come back. He had a string of 
mules that had been hidden in the trees and quickly brought them to 
the boxes of gold. He loaded the six hundred pounds of gold on the 
mules and left setting a fast pace to put as much distance between 
himself and the scene of the crime as possible before pursuit 

I have not been able to determine whether the gold was still 
in the placer operation of dust or whether it had been melted into 
bars for convenience of shipping and inconvenience of stealing. 
Hundred pound bars of gold had proven harder for outlaws to carry 
and also to dispose of. It was easy to walk into almost any town 
in the West and sell gold dust. Bars might be questioned. 


Pushing the pack mules as fast as he could, he headed for the 
Salmon River. He followed the river for a few miles and then 
turned eastward. We don't know which canyons he used to get out of 
the Salmon country or which ranges of mountains he may have crossed 
but he did emerge onto the Snake River Plain. He then turned 
northward, staying near the western hills of the plain. 

His plan was to get to Virginia City where he could hide out 
in the masses of miners working the area. If he could file a claim 
in the area or buy a supposedly worked out claim he could then 
pretend to work the area and filter his newly found gold into the 
main stream of gold traffic of this famous gold mining camp. 

When he got to Spencer his plans changed. Word of the robbery 
had preceded him and the law in Montana had been alerted to check 
all strings of mules coming in from Idaho Territory. He was not 
under suspicion in Spencer as he had left his mules tied up in a 
nearby ravine while he went into the town to purchase supplies and 
get information. 

His original plan had to be altered. He thought now that he 
should hide the gold and lay low for a year or so until all pursuit 
had ended. Then he could go back to the plan of getting the gold 
into the Montana mining area. It only meant a delay in achieving 
his goal. 

Angus went back to the mules and set out in an easterly 
direction. As he rode along he kept mulling over in his mind the 
way the news of the robbery had beat him across the country. He 
began pushing the mules a little faster as he could imagine ae 
posse gaining on him hourly. They would be gaining as they did not 
have mules to slow them down. 

He went along the foothills at the bottom of the Centennial 
Range into Island Park. Before the building of the Island Park Dam 
and the subsequent reservoir the natural trail went from the 
Shotgun Valley near the Buffalo River. People headed for 
Yellowstone Park would turn north there. Others could head for 
Jackson Hole to the southeast or to the Snake River Plain to the 
south. It was a junction point in the trail. 

With his mules exhausted, Angus decided to stop for a while. 
The security of the forest and the distance from Bonanza lulled him 
into feeling that pursuit would be hopelessly lost. He found a 
good place to hide the boxes of gold. There are a lot of small 
caves, bushy groves, and rocky overhangs in the area. It would not 
be hard to find a place that could be covered up to hide any would 
be treasure from a hunter or posse member. 

Satisfied that no one would be able to find the cache but 
himself he left. As with many criminal minds he felt that he was 
quite secure now. He decided to go back to Bonanza. He sold his 
mules at Spencer and made his way leisurely back towards his former 
working grounds. He felt he could suggest that he had been out 
prospecting in the surrounding mountains and that would 


'. ■■...?..■, 

sufficiently explain why he was not around. He did not want anyone 
to question his disappearance at about the same time as the 
robbery. He did bring a little of the gold back with him to 
substantiate his story. The quitting of jobs after earning a grub 
stake was quite common in mining areas. After all, the only reason 
anyone went to a mining area was to discover the big bonanza and 
become wealthy. 

Right after the robbery a posse had been gathered in Bonanza. 
The mine owners wanted to punish severely anyone who partook in a 
robbery to discourage further attempts. The posse found a mule 
trail and it led them to Salmon. This string of mules had been 
loaded with salt and belonged to a legitimate business concern that 
many of them had bought from in the past. They knew that their 
haste had caused them to miss where Angus had turned off with his 
string of mules. 

They knew they were following one man and knew how many mules 
he had. This much knowledge they had gained from careful 
inspection of the site of the robbery. Returning from Salmon they 
discovered the trail that Angus had used when he left the main road 
from Bonanza to Salmon. This delay had given Angus a good lead. 

More bad luck plagued the posse as they emerged from the 
mountains to enter the lava of the Snake River Plain. The lava did 
not leave a trail and his direction was totally lost. They had to 
return to Bonanza completely frustrated at the loss of six hundred 
pounds of gold. 

The mining men were not about to let that much gold go without 
a better attempt to find out who got it. Investigation around the 
town had brought to light the knowledge that a local drifter named 
Angus had disappeared the same time as the robbery. Further 
investigation found that he had purchased several mules and 
supplies late one night. Suspicion was focused on this one person. 

Further investigation revealed that he fit the description of 
the one outlaw seen at the site. Notices were sent all over the 
Territory that this man was wanted for questioning with regard to 
the well publicized theft. 

By now Angus was in Mackay, not too many miles from Bonanza. 
He was not aware that he was being sought and was still using his 
same name. He did not have anything to hide. He was recognized in 
this town and arrested. He loudly proclaimed his innocence until 
the officers showed up from Bonanza with their bulk of 
incriminating evidence. 

I can't believe he went back to the same area. From where he 
was in Island Park he could have easily gone to Jackson Hole and on 
to Denver and melted in with the local populations there to later 
come back and claim his buried loot. 

The law enforcement officers pinned him to the crime and 
convinced him to admit his guilt. He finally decided there were 






r> ?>•' 

«Si"r . 

too many circumstances proving he did it and the officers also 
seemed inclined to leave him in jail until he confessed. He 
admitted the theft of the gold. The fact that he had some of the 
gold on his person also helped convince him that he was not going 
to get away with anything. 

After confessing to the crime he seemed more relaxed. He was 
a congenial outlaw and happily agreed to lead the lawmen to the 
hidden loot. His explanation of his burying the gold on the 
Buffalo River because of the condition of his mules seemed quite 
logical to the lawmen. His description of the burial spot for the 
gold was so detailed that the lawmen also knew that he had to 
accompany them or they would never be able to find it. 

His manner was cooperative and his guards soon relaxed their 
guard. Their cunning adversary was biding his time looking for an 
opening to escape. 

They went from Mackay down the Big Lost River into the desert. 
Then they turned northward. When they crossed his original trail, 
Angus delighted in telling the posse what he had done to lose his 
sign. With his help they were able to continue on the trail 
through the Camas Meadows, through Shotgun Valley, and on into 
Island Park. 

It was approaching evening and an argument started among the 
posse as to whether they should camp then and proceed on to the 
Buffalo River in the morning or go on in the dark. Some had been 
on the trail for so long they were anxious to terminate the hunt as 
soon as possible. Others argued that they might pass something in 
the dark that would cause needless backtracking the next day. The 
argument rose in volume and almost came to blows but it was 
interrupted by a shout. 

Angus had just stayed out of the argument and tried to seem as 
insignificant as possible. As it grew darker a plan began to form 
in his mind. He looked about and fixed in his mind some landmarks 
that he could navigate in the dark. 

He took advantage of the distraction of the loud argument and 
charged into the brush. He disappeared. The shout aroused the 
others and they fired a couple of shots after him but he was gone. 
They could hear him but could see nothing. A couple tried to 
follow but found themselves in danger of hurting their horses. The 
sound of his horse diminished quickly. 

The next day the posse set out in ill humor to find and punish 
this outlaw who had caused them so much problem. They trailed him 
into Island park where his sign turned northward. His trail was 
lost in a rocky area but the direction he was traveling suggested 
that he was headed for Montana. 

A rider was sent on to alert the Montana law officers. The 
rest of the posse went back to set up a camp on the Buffalo River. 
They had been fooled before and they were not going to rush into 


... ^.^. J..,.-- 

: '-, Vr-:^ 

7 "J. O 


-ff r 

Montana leaving the fugitive to circle back to pick up more gold 
and disappear. 

For three weeks the posse made daily trips along the river 
looking for sign of his return or sign of his original camp. 
Nothing was found. The idea began to emerge that maybe he had not 
come to the Buffalo River in the first place. Most of the posse 
left to go back to their work in Bonanza. Three were assigned to 
stay on for a full month more. 

Angus went into Montana staying out of sight of towns and 
people. He would sneak into a camp for food and for a while rode 
the grub line of the ranches. He maintained a low profile so no 
one would remember him. He felt he would be safer the farther 
north he went. He knew he wanted to stay away from Virginia City 
and any other mining areas. He knew they would be looking for him 
in those places. He felt he could hide in cattle country much 

He got a job with a cattle ranch near Helena. To make his 
cover better he joined the other cowboys in looking down on mining 
and miners and in building up the glories of the cattle business. 
A local miner took exception to what was being said and challenged 
him to a fight. Angus was killed in the fight. Once again he made 
a bad choice. 

His description then came to the attention of the law. An 
officer sent to Montana confirmed the identity as the outlaw who 
was being sought. This brought an end to the official search for 
the gold. 

Lost Gold Mine - Island Park 

In 1882, Bob Jordan left the crowded gold fields of Mackay, 
Idaho, with two of his partners to seek their luck in Eastern 
Idaho. They had hear stories of buried treasure and lost gold in 
the area and thought they might have a chance of finding something. 
Color had been found on some of the streams in the area and they 
wanted a change of scenery. Stories had specifically mentioned the 
Buffalo River in Island park and this was where they were going to 
begin their search. 

They took the usual route to that part of Idaho. From Mackay 
they moved down the Big Lost River out onto the lava desert till 
the water disappeared into the sand. The group then turned north. 
They were paying attention to their back trail as there was a rumor 
started just before they left that they knew where a buried 
treasure was. They also tried to cover their trail in case they 
did find something. 


The placer gold on the Buffalo River originates in 
these hills to the east. These hills are the west 
boundary of Yellowstone Park. 

At Spencer they listened to the local gossip and then struck 
out eastward following the natural trail used by those going to 
Yellowstone Park. It went through Camas Meadows into the Shotgun 
Valley. The Shotgun Valley opens into Island Park and the trio 
soon found themselves camping at the mouth of the Buffalo River in 
the middle of the wilderness. 

They set up camp and then each went to a different sandbar to 
try their luck in panning for gold. When they assembled back at 
the camp they compared their notes. Each had found color in his 
pan but Bob had found several flakes in each of his pans. The 
decision was mado to work slowly up the river making careful notes 
as to what was found where. They would move their camp whenever it 
was necessary. This method of search was used to find where the 
gold was most concentrated and if possible the source of it. 

It was slow, painstaking work. Each man spent several hours 
a day bent over the stieam testing pans of dirt. At the end of a 
week they were several miles upstream and felt they were nearing 
the end of the hunt. The stream was getting lower and narrower. It 
could not go on much further. 

Early in the afternoon of the third day of the second week 
there was no sign of gold in the pans. They were almost to the 
headwaters of the Buffalo River. Bob got excited as they took a 
stick to mark the last place they had found color. 


They spent the rest of the day moving their camp as they felt 
now they could establish a permanent base camp. Happy and elated 
at finding the end of the color the prospectors went to bed 
confident that they would find the "mother lode" the next day. 

At dawn they got up eager to find the main vein. Each took a 
different area to search. They were so anxious to find the gold 
that none of them took the time to eat lunch. When they assembled 
that evening they were all disappointed as nothing had been found. 

The next day each took a different area to search. Again 
nothing of value was found. For the next six days the routine 
varied little. They were sure the gold was near but their search 
was fruitless. Their enthusiasm waned and some depression began to 

On the eighth day of their search the larger of Bob's two 
partners sat down on a ledge overlooking the river to take a rest. 
He was a very large man and it did not take much to tire him. As 
he contemplated the scene and tried to decide where to look next 
his eyes were drawn to a ground squirrel busily working about 
twenty yards further down the ledge. There was something odd about 
the pile of dirt being deposited up from the industry of the 
squirrel. Suddenly he realized that the uniqueness of the pile was 
the reflection of the sun coming off it. There was quartz in the 
pile of soil. 

He moved down to the hole and found a vein of quartz running 
along the ledge and under the soil. He could see the cracks of 
gold in the quartz. The ledge was located in a lower area on the 
side of the hill which showed considerable signs of erosion. As he 
studied the slope below the ledge he saw several nuggets of the 
gold that had broken loose to begin their slide to the river below. 

He fired a shot to bring the other two running. They were 
excited to see that the vein had finally been discovered. They 
began a discussion of how best to remove the gold. They set up 
shifts to dig and pick at the vein because there was not room for 
all of them to work together on the ledge. They would pick at the 
exposed vein, smash the rock, and then gathered the larger pieces 
to carry down to the camp. They were going to have to take the 
rock back to Mackay to process as that was the nearest smelter. 

As the vein moved into the hill large amounts of dirt had to 
be dug away from the original rock. They threw the dirt up on the 
sides of the tunnel thinking it could be removed farther away 
later. They were more concerned with obtaining as much gold as 
possible than they were worried about their ditch caving in. 
Besides, if the ditch did fall in, they could always shovel it out 

After working the mine for about a month they had a 
considerable amount of ore piled up. They compared the gold ore 
with the possibility of their horses and mules being able to carry 
it out and came to the conclusion that they better quit the 


• iiSi '": ^ 1^ —V 

Typical gulch in a high erosion area of Island Park. 

mining. They needed to get this ore out and then file a claim on 
the mine before anyone else discovered it. They were not too 
worried as the only people they had seen during their stay were a 
few people headed for Yellowstone Park. These people had been seen 
far from their camp by one of the miners while he had been out 
hunting for game to supplement their supplies. 

Bob suggested that they shut the mine down, hide it, and go to 
Mackay to cash in the gold and get supplies for the next year. 
They could file a claim at this time. This was the plan that was 
agreed upon. 

One side of the passage had developed a large crack. It was 
about to cave into the ledge. The men probed the crack with long 
poles and suddenly it fell in covering the ledge. They then shoved 
dirt off the other side until it was almost level. They gathered 
and scattered leaves, some brush, and some tree limbs across this 
to disguise it. As they stood back to survey their work they were 
quite pleased and sure that no one would be able to happen upon the 
site except by accident. It blended in with the rest of the land 
about and some weathering would make it almost completely 

Their camp had been kept away from the mine some distance in 
case a stranger walking into the area would discover where the mine 
was or what was going on. Each trip to the mine from the camp had 
been taken on a different route so no path would be established to 
lead a searcher. 


The spring melt in the Island Park basin leaves water 

standing in ponds all over. The weather determines 

how fast the water moves into the rivers and how much 
soil is taken with it. 

As they loaded up to leave, each cast his eye in the direction 
of the mine. They wanted to be sure of the location for their 
return next spring. It was just noon when they started down the 
river. They were elated at their good fortune and happy at the 
prospects of spending a winter in Mackay and being the envy of all 
their friends. That night they camped at the Middle Camas Creek 
near present day Kilgore, Idaho. 

Bob arose before dawn as he was anxious to get on down the 
trail. During the night the mules had broken their pickets and 
wandered off into the lava. He walked quickly and quietly in the 
direction he felt they would have drifted. About a half hour later 
he could hear them eating in front of him. Talking to the mules 
quietly so as not to spook them, he got them roped together and 
started back. 

Suddenly there were gunshots in front of him. Not knowing 
what to expect he tied the mules to a tree and crept forward to 
peer over a rise of lava. In the early dawn light he could see 
several figures walking around the camp. Then he recognized them 
as Indians. He watched them for several minutes. They took 
clothes, guns, and supplies but left the gold. The Indians then 
mounted and rode off to the east. 


Bob sat there several minutes more, full of remorse at the 
loss of his close friends. He went into camp and found the two 
bodies. Despite his fear of the possible return of the Indians, he 
took time to bury them. Then he loaded the gold on the mules and 
left moving as fast as possible. 

At Spencer he reported the Indians and replenished his 
supplies. He bought two guns, plenty of ammunition, and a horse. 
He was going to be ready if he saw any more Indians. Paying for 
these things in gold nuggets caused a small sensation and he told 
the assembled group that he had found the gold in Kilgore. 

Now that he was known to be carrying gold he was nervous about 
potential outlaws as well as the Indian threat. He had planned to 
move on to Mackay using the back hills to avoid white people and 
the possibility of outlaws on the well traveled road. Now he 
changed his mind. 

From Spencer he joined a freighting group who were headed for 
Utah. He stayed with them to Blackfoot. There he found and joined 
a large group of freight wagons headed west and traveled the rest 
of the way to Mackay in safety. 

The assay tests on the gold proved to be exceedingly high in 
the content of gold. It brought forty thousand dollars to the ton. 
The actual amount of gold in the rock came to just over fifty 
pounds. Bob received twelve thousand dollars for his fifty pounds 
as gold was going for fifteen dollars an ounce at that time in the 
West. Under today's (April, 1991) prices the gold would have been 
worth a little more than three hundred thousand dollars. For how 
much a dollar would buy in those days compared to today you can 
compare the amounts the gold brought and have a good idea. He was 
a rich man from this one venture. He also had a lot of new 

Bob spent the winter exchanging mining stories and looking for 
two men to replace his other partners. There was no way he would 
work the mine alone and he wanted the company of others in case 
they saw the Indians again. As he watched the men around him and 
made his selection he was in turn being watched by those who wanted 
to follow him to his mine and cash in on it. 

He invited two friends to join him in an expedition. They 
agreed. He financed the venture agreeing with each as to what the 
three partners would receive as a percentage of the gold they 
brought out of the mine. They also took enough mules to enable 
them to bring back plenty of ore. As soon as the snow allowed them 
to leave, they set out on their venture knowing first of all they 
had to deceive the rest of the miners in the town as there were 
many who wanted to follow. 

Elaborate schemes had been devised by those in the town who 
were desirous of finding the mine. Bob had never told anyone where 
he had been or where the mine was located. He had hinted that the 


3 - .^-H. 

mine was in the White Clouds mountains to the south and west of 

As spring approached the rest of the miners grew nervous and 
began watching Bob and his activities. They knew he would be about 
ready to leave when he made major supply purchases. Bob felt he 
could buy most of his supplies at Spencer as he knew what they had 
at the store there. He bought in small amounts but often so that 
he could built up a store to leave with. 

Men began camping outside of Mackay so they would be in a 
position to follow Bob. Most of them were south and west of the 
town and so when he left traveling north many did not know of the 
leaving until he was long gone. 

The trio spent a week wandering the Lost River Range and the 
Lemhi Range of mountains. When they felt they had lulled their 
followers into a routine of camp at night and wandering in the day, 
they disappeared in the middle of the night. By the time their 
pursuers had gotten up, the miners were miles away, and well on the 
path towards Island Park. 

It took two more weeks for Bob to get serious about moving 

right to the mine. He wanted to make sure that he had lost all 

pursuit. While continuing their wandering they were moving 
steadily north and eastward. 

Finally the two partners got tired of the game. They demanded 
to know where they were going. Bob told them to wait a little 
while longer and that day they went into Spencer to load up on 
supplies. As they packed the supplies on the mules the excitement 
grew as it was obvious that the owner of the store knew Bob. He 
wanted to know if he was going back to the mine and told him that 
there were several others out there looking for it although most of 
the first rush had returned and gone elsewhere to look for gold. 

Bob spent another day east of Spencer making sure no one was 
following them and then set a steady course to Island Park. They 
went to the Buffalo River and then he led them up the river to his 
former camp. He got more excited as they got closer to their 

As they arrived at the camp it was obvious that the area had 
been used as a camp before and the two partners began to get 
excited. They were at the location of the mine where they were 
going to realize all their dreams. It was dusk and the hillside 
where the mine was located was all dark. Bob pointed that way and 
then they set about putting in a permanent camp. 

The next morning they took shovels and picks and went up the 
hill to the mine. There was absolutely no sign of it left. Bob 
went to the ledge to show where they needed to start digging but it 
wasn't there. Then he laughed as he realized he was on the wrong 
ridge. The mine was on the next one over. He crossed over and 


■ ? ■S -iT 


The Buffalo River is very short. The lost mine is 
within a few miles of this shot taken from the 
bridge looking upstream. 

examined the ground looking for the ledge that contained the vein. 
It wasn't there. 

For the next two weeks they tried every possible trail from 
the camp to the hill where the mine was supposed to be. There had 
been considerable snow that year and there was evidence in several 
places of a tremendous run off of snow melt. There was also 
evidence of high winds during the year as many trees were down that 
had not aged enough to be old ones. 

The frustration of not finding the mine began to tell on Bob. 
He was beginning to remember places they had gone to during this 
summer as the places he felt the mine was. The description of the 
mine began to change in his mind. His partners stayed with him 
because they had committed to a summer of riches and they might 
find it at any time. 

They spent the next weeks measuring the land into sections and 
examining each part in detail. They even checked areas that were 
completely in the opposite direction from where the mine was 
thought to be. They had no luck in any of their ventures. Bob was 
getting worse. 

By the end of the summer he 
very suspicious of his partners. 

was irritable, irrational, and 
He accused them of hiding the 


mine from him. As they probed the ground with sharpened poles to 
find the quartz ledge, he complained that they were not trying hard 
enough. His suspicion and distrust grew daily as the mine stayed 

One day he pulled his gun on the two others and ordered them 
to pack up and leave. They had been discussing the same idea as 
they were sure that he had gone mad. They jumped at the chance to 
get away before one or both were shot in a fit of anger. 

Fall storms forced Bob back to Mackay for the winter. He 
spent the season by himself, brooding about his bad luck and 
complaining. Very few spoke to him and most just avoided him 
altogether. His partners had come back telling the story of the 
lost mine and of Bob going crazy. No one wanted to associate with 
him that year. 

In the spring he went into his elaborate plan of deception 
once again. However, this time no one followed him out of town or 
anywhere. They had dismissed him as a crazy who had lost it. This 
was not uncommon in the mining areas of the West. Anyone who 
wanted to follow would have gone directly to the Buffalo River in 
Eastern Idaho. The two partners had described the area where they 
had spent the frustrating summer. 

The general feeling in the mining camps was that the stress of 
losing his first two partners had done him in. His mental stress 
had caused him to lose the needed directions to the mine and the 
added stress of not being able to find it had caused him to snap. 
They wished him well in his hunt but no one wanted to go with him. 

Bob went back to the Buffalo River. He spent the summer 
wandering and trying to find the mine. He worked on building a 
crude shelter and later expanded it into a cabin. He was consumed 
by the idea that someone would try to steal his mine from him. He 
worried that someone would come to the camp in his absence in the 
winter and find the mine. He still had money left from the first 
years mining and with plenty of wood around he could stay the year 

He went to Mackay for the last time. There he bought 
supplies, bought trapping equipment, and took the rest of his money 
from the bank. Any more supplies could be purchased at Spencer. 
The plan now was to stay in the Island Park area all year round. 
He could trap, hunt, and fish to supplement his food supplies and 
remain near the cabin to keep all others away. His emphasis seemed 
to have changed from finding the mine to keeping others away from 
the area. 

Rumor suggests that Bob eventually went all the way insane and 
shot himself. 

Several years ago I drove the delivery truck for the Coca Cola 
Company in the Island Park area. I was at Pond's Lodge near the 
Buffalo River on a weekly basis. One day at the store I observed 



"^''iflhjuiiii I " 


Typical Miner Cabin 

an old man dressed in rawhide and really looking the part of my 
image of a mountain man. He also smelled like a person who did not 
worry to much about being around people. 

I was in the store every week and noticed him several times 
that summer. The next year I had the same assignment with the 
company and I noticed him again. He and I seemed to be converging 
on the store at the same time. 

My curiosity finally got the best of me and I asked the 
manager of the store what the old man was doing in the country and 
what he thought about me asking him for an interview. The manager 
told me that the old man came in for supplies every so often and 
sold them a few skins. Everyone around thought he was slightly 
crazy. A few fishermen had complained that the old man had 
threatened them with a gun when they went by his cabin. Most 
thought he was harmless and knew that he spent his time looking for 
a gold mine. 

No one knew of any mining discoveries in the area and so they 
all thought he was a harmless eccentric. He did suggest that it 
might not be wise to approach the miner as he seemed to get 
irritated whenever someone new talked to him. Tourists seemed to 
think taking his picture was showing the true west and he did not 
like that. He felt everyone was after his mine. 

The next year I did not see him but I looked for him each time 
I went into the lodge. After a month I inquired about him and was 
told that he had died. The people at the lodge had noticed that he 


had not come in for some time. They sent someone up to investigate 
the cabin at the head of the river and found him lying dead on his 

A final note on this story is a comment on the worth of this 
mine. The original assay was forty thousand dollars to a ton of 
ore. My studies of mining in the West suggests that this is 
relatively high for the content of gold in a ton of ore. This is 
probably why it created such excitement when the ore was assayed. 
A high yielding ore from a mine means more money for the amount of 
work involved. Often there is more gold in a vein if the gold is 
in a high yielding rock. Compare again the yield of twelve 
thousand dollars for fifty pounds of gold to todays yield of over 
three hundred thousand dollars for the same weight. It is a high 
yielding mine setting somewhere just off the Buffalo River near its 



There are a lot of rumors that have surfaced over the years 
since the first gold discoveries in Northern Idaho in 1860. Many 
of these stories have grown over the years and many of them have 
lost some of the details. The stories in this section are 
characterized by their lack of detail or authenticity. 

Some of them are rumors that have been passed down over the 
years and survive only because someone has told the story again and 
again. Attempts to find newspaper accounts or journal accounts to 
authenticate these stories have so far proved hopeless. I have 
investigated most of them and aw presenting here what conclusions 
I have reached. 

Some of the other stories seem to have a lot of supporting 
evidence but are lacking in any detail. These I have presented 
with some ideas of my own regarding the location or non-location of 
the lost treasure. Some of them are eliminated as serious sites 
for searching just on the basis of the lack of information let 
alone the lack of any substantiation. 

A few of the other stories in this section are placed here 
because of the shortness of their story. The first story is of 
this type. I know it is true because it is one that I participated 

Victor Spanish Coin 

Wendell Gillette is the most famous historian in Teton Valley 
today. He is very knowledgeable regarding what happened in the 
Valley and who it happened to. He has spent many years living in 
the Victor, Idaho, area and has written histories for many years. 
In the past few years he has been appearing at local schools in 
Eastern Idaho to present them a hands on story of the early 
mountain men and their equipment. He was honored as an Idaho 
Historian by the Upper Snake River Valley Historical Society. 

In the late 1970's or early 1980's I was in Victor to visit 
with Wendell regarding some issue of history. He was at this time 
the chairman of the Teton Valley Historical Society and a recently 
released member of the Board of Directors of the Upper Snake River 
Valley Historical Society. 


While visiting we were interrupted by his grandson who had 
found a coin. He had been moving pipe on their pasture that 
morning and discovered the coin under a pipe. Wendell looked at 
the coin, cleaned it, and then handed it to me to look at. I could 
tell it had Spanish looking lettering and a date that was not 
identifiable to the naked eye. 

I made a sketch of the coin and told them I would go to the 
library at Ricks College to see if I could find an identification 
in their coin books. They have several coin boo^s. As I looked 
through the Spanish section of one of the books I found a coin that 
looked identical to my rough sketch. 

I got quite excited as the coin was dated to have been in 
circulation during the latter 1700 's and early 1800 's. I made a 
copy of the page and then went to the phone to call Wendell. 

He was waiting for the call. My excitement grew as I 
explained to him that this was a very valuable coin although I 
cannot recall how much the book said it was worth at the time. I 
told him to m.ake sure that his grandson did not lose it as it was 
worth in the thousands in money and perhaps much more in historical 
value. He told me he would get the coin and then call me back so 
we could determine who to inform of this discovery. 

When I answered the phone a few minutes later I could tell 
that something was wrong. His voice was not the same excited, 
eager sound that I had left him with a moment before. He explained 
that his grandson had lost the coin between grandpa's house and his 
own. The circumstances of the loss were not explained in detail 
but it left no doubt that the coin was gone and not retrievable. 

The coin had been found in a field west of Victor. The most 
historical event to occur in this area was the battle with the Gro 
Ventre (Blackfeet) Indians in 1832. That summer the trappers had 
a rendezvous near Driggs, Idaho. One group of trappers had a major 
battle with the Indians that moved all over the southern end of the 
Valley. It is quite possible that this coin was lost in the 
process of this battle. 

It is also possible that the coin could have been lost by one 
of the many trappers who traversed the Valley during the trapper 
era from 1820 to 1835. Then there were the Indians who came 
through from time to time. They had been made aware early of the 
use coins seemed to have with the white man and could have had some 
for trade. 

It is most likely that the coin came from the battle. The 
scurry of battle, the crawling around the ground, and the quick 
movement from area to area would certainly have contributed to the 
loss of things. 


Lost Mine - Shoup 

Shoup, Idaho, is located in Lemhi County. This lost mine is 
around twenty-five miles from Shoup in the northern part of the 
county. This area is very mountainous and heavily wooded. 

Here again we have the Spanish being mentioned. They were 
apparently working a mine in this wilderness area so far from 
Mexico. I use the word apparently because there is no historical 
record of such a mine being in use by the Spanish or of any 
Spanish incursion this far north of the colonies in New Spain. The 
mine was abandoned at some period for a reason not published. It 
could have easily been the distance from supplies or of hauling the 
gold. Considering the Spanish system of treating the Indians as 
slaves it could have easily been the threat of an Indian uprising 
that caused them to leave. 

In 1885 two Nez Perce Indians stumbled across the abandoned 
Spanish mine. They brought out rich samples of high grade ore. 
When they found out that the ore was valuable they went back to 
find it again. They could not. 

My credibility stretches here. Any Indian worth being called 
an Indian should be able to retrace his steps anywhere in the West. 
Course my understanding of Indian prowess is colored a lot by the 
descriptions in the Louis Lamour novels. None of his Indians would 
have ever lost a mine in the wilderness. 

Sunset Lodge Coins 

I read this story in a copy of Lost Treasure magazine a few 
years ago. I don't remember the volume number and my records of 
this story were one of the casualties of the Teton Flood. 
However, a person wanting to read this story could find the volume 
listed in the subject lists of magazines in the local libraries. 
Then if they had the back issues of the magazine you could obtain 

I cannot recall the year the story supposedly took place. It 
occurred at the Sunset Lodge in Island Park. The Sunset Lodge is 
the last business on Highway 20 before it goes into Montana on the 
way to Yellowstone Park. It is just past the turn off to go to 
Henry's Lake. 

One day a car stopped across from the lodge and service 
station. People got out of the car and started walking up and down 
the road just off the side of it. At times they seemed to be 
walking off a measured distance. 

The curiosity of the manager of the service station was 
aroused and in between filling cars with gasoline he watched the 
people. This is why we have the story. Business was such that he 


never had time to actually go over and question them as to what 
they were doing. 

In the early afternoon he noticed one of them running to the 
car and getting a shovel out of it. They dug in the ground for a 
few moments, picked something out of the ground, and then returned 
to the car. They placed something in the trunk and then left. It 
appeared to the station manager that they were quite agitated and 
in a hurry at the end of the scene. 

Most likely these coins were in a bag, can, or bucket. 

The manager finally got a break and walked over to investigate 
the site of the action. He saw their footprints along the road. 
He also found the hole that had been dug but in their haste not 
filled in. In the bottom of the hole he observed the outline of 
coins in the mud. 

That is the basis of the story. I went to Sunset Lodge to 
inquire about the veracity of the discovery. The owner of the 
service station when I visited it had owned it during the time 
period covered in the above story. 

I questioned him about unusual or strange occurrences of the 
past regarding his operation of the station. I found some very 
interesting anecdotes of life but nothing about a lost treasure. 
I then told him the above story and asked him if he recalled 
anything like it. 

He looked at me like I was crazy. He said that things were 
not all that glamorous in the running of a service station. If 
something like this story had occurred in the vicinity he would 
have noticed it. He suggested that if it had happened to any of 


his staff they would have told him as the passing on of stories and 
rumors was what kept life interesting. He said he was sure that it 
did not happen. 

T went next door to the Sunset Lodge itself. I asked any of 
the help if they had heard anything like this story. Two of them 
were long time employees and one was the manager for some time. 
None of them had heard anything like it. They suggested, as the 
station owner had, that anything of that nature would have been 
talked of for several weeks and would not be forgotten. 

I have written this story off as one that I would not pursue. 
There are too many holes in it. Not only did none of the people, 
who in the story were very aware of it happening, recall the event 
but the story of the coins leaves holes. Supposedly the service 
station owner went over and observed the outline of coins in the 
mud. This would suggest that the coins were lying loose in the 
hole. The story suggests that a bundle, box, or keg lifted from 
the hole and placed in the trunk of the car. 

I have tried to figure out how the outline of coins could come 
from the above description and can't. If the coins were in a wrap 
of some kind that might leave an impression it would have rotted 
over the years in the damp soil. If the coins were loose they 
would have needed to be dug out with much more care and there would 
have been loose soil in the bottom of the hole. A normal treasure 
hunter would continue to dig to make sure that all the coins had 
been picked up. 

My best solution is that it was an interesting story but one 
that has been distorted over the year. It could take on a whole 
new meaning if a couple of words in the story were changed in the 
telling. The two words. Sunset Lodge. If an error was made in the 
naming of the lodge then it could open up the whole rest of the 
Island Park area. 

Camas Creek 

In the book. Buried Treasure of the United States there is a 
short item regarding a buried treasure on Camas Creek. The entire 
article is quoted here. "About $25,000 in gold bullion that was 
robbed from a stagecoach by bandits in 1864 is hidden on the banks 
of Camas Creek about one mile north of Camas on U.S. 51, Jefferson 
County. " 

U.S. 51 is probably meant to be U.S. 15. Camas Creek runs 
into Mud Lake and this story may be a confusion with the Mud Lake 


Mt. Sawtell Gold 

I have heard rumors and read a few published accounts of a 
lost treasure being hidden in a cave on Mt. Sawtell in Island Park. 
The published accounts all say the same thing almost like they were 
copied from one original story. However, none of the accounts site 
a journal, diary, nevvspaper account, or any other source so that 
some research could be done on the treasure. 

Mt. Sawtell from across the Island Park Reservoir. 

The story tells of Spanish explorers getting way off course in 
their travels. To get into Idaho from New Spain (Mexico) they 
would have to be really off course. They had with them a 
considerable amount of treasure. Treasure to us would have been 
decorated and ornate swords and other items holding precious gems. 
To them it was for show and defense. Added to this was the spoils 
of their venture into the country. 

By the time they got this far into Idaho they were in a 
desperate state. They had been attacked by Indians and they were 
out of food. They found a cave on the southern slopes of Mt. 
Sawtell and spent a few days in it. They decided they might have 
a chance to get back to Mexico if they lightened their load. They 
discarded all they had except that which might be needed for 
defense and left. We have no record of them ever getting back to 
Mexico or returning. 

Suggestions have been made that this was one of the groups 
sent out by Coronado from his main group in 1540-42. Coronado did 
send out many groups from his exploring body to see if they could 
find the seven cities of gold. However, the journal 


Sawtell Treasure? 

stories of this group accounted for all who went out and none 
suggested that any got as far north as Idaho. 

There were other Spanish explorers who went about the West and 
a couple of their fur traders were in Utah and southern Idaho. But 
to suggest that a group carrying treasure got as far north as Idaho 
is to stretch credibility. 

Another fact to support the idea that the treasure does not 
exist is the knowledge that Mt. Sawtell is a prime elk hunting area 
in the fall of each year. During the past fifty years there has 
been intense hunting all over this mountain. It is hard to believe 
that the numbers of hunters involved in this area would not have 
stumbled upon a cave or if finding a cave did not explore it. 

Leadore, Idaho 

The Gilmore and Hahn mining areas were known for producing 
nickel, lead, some silver, and a little gold. These two towns are 
on the road to Salmon, Idaho, and a few miles southeast of Leadore. 
There was a small smelter at Hahn. It is thought that workers from 
the Hahn smelter stole small amounts of gold and hid it near the 
smelter to pick up at a later date. In 1936 there is a report that 
fifty pounds of gold were found a couple of hundred yards from the 
old smelter. It had been buried in a hole two feet deep. Fifty 
pounds of gold under 1991 prices would result in about three 
hundred thousand dollars. It is not known how many more caches 
might be located near the smelter. 


West Jefferson Coins 

I was at a meeting to help organize the Mud Lake Historical 
Society when the subject of lost treasure came up. One of the 
people in the meeting suggested that he had heard of gold coins 
being lost along a road which was a former trail between Reno Point 
to the west and Hamer to the east. 

The coins were stolen from Challis. The outlaws had them in 
bags upon horses and were making their escape across this trail 
through the desert. There is a lot of lava in the desert and it is 
thought that one of the bags scraped a lava escarpment and broke 
open or at least tore a hole. A open break might have been heard 
and discovered as the noise of several coins descending onto the 
lava should have been loud. A hole in the bag would allow a coin 
to fall out every so often along the trail. It would not be 
noticed until the group stopped for a rest or to check their 
burdens. By this time it would be too hard to go back and check or 
pick up any loose coins. 

The road through this part of Jefferson County has been built 
up by the County and follows the same route as the old trail. At 
Hamer the road joins the controversial road that crosses just south 
of the Juniper Hills to Egin. The part of the road where the coins 
are supposed to be is located north of Mud Lake. 

The story suggests that some of the coins were found by men 
working on the upgrading of the road. There was a County 
Commissioner from Jefferson County in the meeting who heard this 
story. He did not refute or admit his knowledge of the coins being 
found or existing. This is a story I am going to look more into as 
soon as I obtain a metal detector. 

Craters of the Moon National Monument 

I read an account of gold from robberies being hid in a cave 
in the crater in the "Moon National Monument" located in Blaine and 
Butte counties. The robberies occurred between 1867 and 1895 by 
several different outlaws. There were no details regarding the 
amounts of gold stolen. I am not sure which crater is being 
referred to above as there are many small blow holes and many caves 
on the National Monument. I do not know the law regarding the 
removal of something from the Monument but I suggest that it 
probably is the same as the National Parks. Nothing is to be 
removed from the Parks. 

A second story suggests "there is a large cache of gold 
bullion alleged to be concealed among some large brick volcanic 
rocks about one mile east of State Highway 93A on the northwestern 
edge of the park." 


Snake River - Hibbard 

When the dam was being built on Willow Creek to form the Ririe 
Reservoir a lot of the fill was hauled from the Hibbard, Idaho, 
area to the dam. There was heavy equipm.ent on the side of the 
Snake River low lands to sort the sand, gravel, and soil to make 
sure what was going into the dam was what the engineers wanted. 

L^ ;'C^'**i^.i':iri^::W 


This is the site where the gravel was being hauled 
from in Hibbard. 

There were news stories of small piles of gold dust being 
found under the conveyor belts and under the gravel sorter. 
Apparently the gold was contained in the soil that was being used 
for the dam. The circular motion of the crusher acted like a gold 
pan and the gold settled under the machine. There was not enough 
for anyone to retire from but it was there. 

Arco Gold 

In a sort of recent gold robbery it is reported that outlaws 
took $215,000 (April, 1991, three million, eight hundred thousand 
dollars) in 1897. It was taken from a pack train that was going 
from Blackfoot to Arco. They hid the gold in a cave about two 
miles northeast of Arco. They were caught and hanged. 

The probability of a pack train loaded with gold going from 
Blackfoot to Arco would be similar to a bulk gasoline truck hauling 
gasoline from the service station to the refinery. It doesn't make 
sense. The mines were on the other side of Arco and the gold went 
from Arco to Blackfoot for shipment on to the railroad in Utah. 



This gravel pit is located east of Rexburg. It was 
used for years by the Madison County. It is now on 
private property. It has never yeilded any gold 
but considering the prior story, could. 


f--:^ - 

Sam, Idaho, is located in the mountains on the 

west side of Teton Valley in the center of this 

picture. It was the site of coal deposits that 
were mined commercially for a time. 


Uranium - Heise 

During the late 1950 's and early 1960 's there was a uranium 
rush in Eastern Idaho. Low yielding uranium ore was found in 
several areas and at the time throughout the country there was a 
need for uranium ore to use in reactors and atomic bombs. 

Prospectors found the ore in the Salmon area and immediately 
there was a rush of people to the country to lay out claims. Most 
of them then sat back and waited for a big company to come in and 
buy the claim from them. That did not happen. To keep a claim a 
person has to put so much money into improving it. Some of those 
prospectors went to their claim only once or twice a year on a 
week-end to put in some work so they could keep their claim. The 
work consisted of improving the road or the entrance to where their 
mine would be. I am not aware of anyone making any money on any of 
these claims. 

At the same time the claims were being laid out in Salmon 
someone found readings on their geiger counter in the Heise area of 
Eastern Idaho. The readings were low but the anticipation was 
great. Within a two week period you could drive along the road 
going to the Heise Hot Springs and on to Kelley's Canyon and see 
mining claims posted every so many yards. 

I had a small geiger counter and walked across some of these 
claims to see what had triggered the massive response. I found 
very weak readings wherever I went. It was more like a claim was 
filed and then a whole bunch of people claimed next to the original 
and then spread out. Without knowing where the best source was 
they claimed the whole river valley, 

I saw some improvement on one of the claims over the next 
couple of years. One claim was located between the Heise bridge 
and the first house to the east. The people had improved their 
claim by building a wood mine entrance on the north side of the 
road. I walked up to this mine to see what was there. There was 
a mine entrance and a solid rock wall. The entrance had been built 
to satisfy the requirements of the claim but had progressed no 

I have never read in the newspaper or heard of anyone selling 
their claim in this area to a mining company. By now all the 
claims would have expired as there has been no work on any of them. 
The uranium proved to be of such low yield that it would not have 
been profitable to work a mining program to extract it. Much 
better sources have been found with better yielding ore. 

Today, to open a mining program on that type of scale would 
require an environmental impact statement. With the desire to 
preserve the beauty and wilderness aspect of the South Fork of the 
Snake River it is unlikely that one would be approved at least 
without a lengthy delay. 


•?• r • 

•- . • ■•" »■ r 

. >y 

•^ -^^'5^- -5^&^?^- .i-.- 


The Idaho sand dunes have been a source of Indian 
artifacts for years. They have also been the 
possible cause of treasures remaining lost. The 
shifting sands have covered more than one lost 

Kilgore Gold 

This is one of the most confused stories I have ever read. 
There are so many holes in it that I am not sure where to start. 
I will tell the story as I read it and then point out a few of the 
problems I find with it as it was written. 

The story suggests that renegade Indians stole two million 
dollars (thirty-six million, April, 1991) worth of gold bullion and 
buried it near Kilgore, Idaho. The description of the burial site 
is that it was "...on the north shore of Buffalo Creek, about eight 
miles southeast of Kilgore, Fremont County, in the northwestern 
corner of the Targhee Forest..." 

The account goes on to suggest the robbery took place in 1880. 
Within two hours of the robbery the Indians had been caught and 
killed by the Cavalry. By the time the army caught up with them 
the Indians had hidden the two wagon loads of gold although the 
wagons and horses were found. 

There are a few things that don't jive in this short story. 
There is no Buffalo Creek eight miles southeast of Kilgore. There 
is a Buffalo River about thirty miles due east of Kilgore. It has 
always been known as the Buffalo River. The only Indians we know of 
in this part of Idaho any where near the reported time of the 
robbery were the Nez Perce of Chief Joseph who came by Kilgore into 


Island Park in 1877. This trip is well documented and there were 
no wagons of gold around. 

There have been a couple of books written about the history of 
Island Park that do not mention any gold wagons being taken over by 
renegade or otherwise Indians. I can find no reference to in the 
history of the region as to this route being used by any mining 
areas as a transportation route. 

The only real trail through the area was the one used by 
travelers to Yellowstone Park who would take the train to Spencer 
and then take wagons eastward by Kilgore, into Island Park, and 
then on into the Yellowstone Park. There just are no m.ines in the 
vicinity that would have bars of gold to get them into this area at 
that time period. 

There are just too many holes in this one to give it too much 

Sentinel Rocks 

Here is a quote from the book, Buried Treasure of the United 
States . Compare this to the story printed prior to this page in 
the second section of the book. 

"In 1869 bandits robbed and buried about 300 pounds of raw 
gold beneath Sentinel Rocks near the junction of Big and Kelly 
Canyons, near Kelly's Gulch, a few miles north of Rigby, Booneville 
County . " 

I believe this is a reference to the Kelley's Canyon gold 
written about in some detail in a previous chapter. There are a 
couple of errors listed in this brief quote. In all the research 
I have done on this story there has never been an accurate fact of 
how much the gold weighed. I cannot even confirm as to whether it 
is gold bars or sacks of gold dust. 

It says Kelly's Canyon is a few miles north of Rigby. Of 
course it is located several miles to the east of Rigby. North of 
Rigby is the Snake River Plain of desert with nothing resembling a 
canyon or mountains. 

The final error could be typographical. It suggests that 
Kelley's Canyon is in Booneville County. If the authors are 
consulting any maps of the area in their story telling they would 
know that it is Bonneville County. 


Snake River 

Here we are with the Plummer Gang again. They seem to have 
been the most active of all the gangs i,n the West. This time they 
are in the area of American Falls. 

With a loot of five hundred thousand dollars (April, 1991 nine 
million dollars) they found themselves on the Snake River 3ust 
below the present day American Falls Reservoir. The story suggests 
that they placed the loot in a cave behind a waterfall about two 
miles below the dam in Power County. 

It seems that this treasure should be one that could be found. 
There are not very many waterfalls below the American Falls Dam and 
with the approximate two mile limit a person should be able to look 
behind any of them if access can be gotten to the river. It does 
pass through a steep canyon at this point. 

Portneuf Canyon Coins 

Here is another quote from the book, 3urj.ed Treasure of tl^e 
United States . "Bandits are alleged to have buried about $110,000 
in gold coins and bullion in the vicinity of Portneuf Canyon, a few 
miles south of Pocatello, U.S. 15, Bannock County." The above 
amount comes to almost two million dollars today (April, 1991.) 
The only downer on this story is the lack of significant details. 
The Portneuf Canyon is quite large and without anything to pm the 
site of the lost treasure down any closer it would be almost 
impossible to find. 

Fort Hall 

Fort Hall was an historic fort built in 1834 as a trading post 
for fur trappers. It was used by the Hudson Bay Company (British) 
fur trappers for a time and later was used as a military fort. 
When the mines of Montana started producing their gold it became an 
important trading spot. It was abandoned for the more popular site 
of Blackfoot a few miles to the north and east as it was a junction 
of two trails out of the mining areas. 

The site of the old fort is now on the Fort Hall Indian 
Reservation southwest of Blackfoot and north of Pocatello, Idaho. 
Since it is in the bottom land of the Snake River it is covered by 
the waters of the American Falls Reservoir until the water is drawn 
down in the fall. 

It was the junction point for the Oregon and California 
Trails. Travelers to these two points came on the Oregon Trail to 
the fort and then separated shortly after to go to their separate 


This is how I pictured Fort Hall in its heyday 

The Snake River floods almost every spring. The mountains of 
Eastern Idaho and western Wyoming harbor enormous snow depth. When 
spring comes to this desert country it comes quickly. In the early 
days there was nothing to stop the water and it often flooded the 
low lands along the river. At times it rose and spread out across 
large acreage of land. 

In 1863 following a week of warm weather one of the stronger 
snow melts resulted in a flood that destroyed the fort and the 
support buildings surrounding the fort. A large safe in the fort 
was lost along with all of the contents of the other buildings. It 
is reported to have contained several hundred pounds of gold. 

I don't know what several amounts to but at around three 
hundred sixty dollars per ounce it makes a hefty treasure. 
Considering the site of the fort and the river nearby there are 
three things that I would evaluate before I made a serious attempt 
to find this treasure. 

One, it is on the Indian Reservation and permission would have 
to be obtained before wandering about. The Indians have the right 
to know what is going on in their territory. Sometimes they have 
been known to charge for fishing or hunting on the reservation. I 
don't know about treasure hunting but I would bet they would want 
a cut of anything found. 

Two, how far downstream would the flood waters have carried 
the safe before it reached a place of haven? Several hundred 
pounds of gold and the dead weight of the safe would suggest not to 
far. Remember the site of the fort is under the water of the 
American Falls Reservoir for most of the year. The safe would be 
further down from the fort. 


Three, if one were to consider using a metal detector you 
would have to remember that the American Falls Reservoir was the 
last receptacle of the debris of the Teton Flood. Anything metal 
that had any air in it would have floated from the dam all the way 
to the reservoir and become part of a submerged junk pile. When 
the water is low there are metal items jutting up from the 
reservoir floor all over. 


Gold Bearing Eastern Idaho Streams 

Teton River, looking south, as it is near to leaving 
the Valley. 

South Fork of Teton River as seen from the Moody Road 


North Fork of Teton River from Salem Road 
middle of river has yeilded gold flakes. 

Sand bar in 

Th!^^^'''^'" ^°°^'"^ northeast from Highway 32 bridge 

re ^tli^tv free%?''°' l^''^^-^--- ^-rK and has be^n 
relatively free flowing to this point. 


Falls River near the bridge on Highway 20. I found gold 
flakes on a sand bar on the right side of the stream 
near the riffle in the middle of the picture. 

Robison Creek near where it enters Warm River. The upper 
reaches of this creek have yeilded several pans of gravel 
containing two and three flakes per pan. 


The North Fork (Henry's) of the Snake River comes out of 
this canyon where Warm River in the foreground joins it. 
There is new gold to be found on this stretch as some is 
coming into the river between here and Island Park 


North Fork of Snake River in Salem. There are some great 
sand bars between this Salem bridge and the Hibbard bridge 


South Fork of the Snake River above Heise. There are 
some great gravel bars on this stretch of river. 

South Fork of Snake River looking upstream. Just around the 
corner is a canyon noted for flour gold. This is gold that 
IS too light to pan. It has to be collected by using 


Falls River looking downstream from the Highway 20 
bridge. This river runs through this lava gorge 
at a rapid pace. There is more yeild in flakes of 
gold below this stretch than above it. I have 
often wondered if there is a vein of gold in the 
lava under the water level. It is too swift for 
me to investigate. 

A reminder to those of you who have stories of lost treasure in 
Eastern Idaho besides those mentioned in this book, I would like 
to get them all in print. We will put them in an upcoming issue of 
the Snake River Echoes or if enough more come in they will be 
put in a companion volume to this one. Good Luck in your 


The following map shows the approximate site of the major gold 
stories mentioned in the book. Consult a road map for specific 

Sain on 



• Challis 

• r.ackay 

• Arco 


• Spencer 

^•* . Ponds 
^ Lodge 






KENAN BUm . Rexburg 

. R(^rts KELLY'S CANtfON 

(Karket Lalfe) yt 

• Idaho Falls 
(Ea^le Rock ) 


m ' Black foot 

• Focatello 


This view is of the North Fork of the Snake River as it 
leaves the Island Park Caldera and enters the Snake River 
Plain. The river was quite free flowing to here until 
the Island Park Dam was built. 

This view of the South Fork of the Snake River was taken 
upstream from Heise. It shows some of the sand bars and 
gravel deposits in which gold has been known to be